The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has slapped a fine of Rs 1 lakh on Nutan Thakur for filing a frivolous petition that accused Press Council Chairman Markandey Katju and four others of contempt for not implementing a judgment that banned media reporting on movement of army troops. Katju had also criticised the judgment as not correct,Thakurs petition had said.
Dismissing the petition by the freelance journalist,Justice Devendra Kumar Arora said: The applicant has made an unsuccessful attempt to make out a case out of nothing just for the sake of sensationalism.
On April 10,a high court bench of Justice Uma Nath Singh and Virendra Kumar Dixit had directed the Union Home Secretary,the Secretary of Information of Broadcasting and the Principal Secretary (Home) of Uttar Pradesh to ensure that there was no reporting of any news item by the media regarding movement of troops.
The order was passed on a PIL by Thakur that contended that a report carried by The Indian Express on April 4 on unauthorised movement of two Army units towards NCR on the night of December 16-17 last year,as also some other media reports,were against national interest.
In her contempt petition,Thakur said that Katju had termed the judgment not correct and even stated that the council would challenge it in the Supreme Court. Later,the Press Council had actually moved the Supreme Court.
Thakur said that Katju should have carried out the courts directions instead of commenting on it. Besides Katju,she had alleged contempt by the Union Home Secretary,Secretary of Information of Broadcasting,Principal Secretary (Home) of UP and Press Council Secretary.
She had accused authorities of not taking steps to enforce the courts judgment and submitted copies of news items published in some newspapers,including The Indian Express,and said that these violated the high courts directions.
In his judgment,Justice Arora pointed out that the news items were regarding a statement made by the Defence Minister in the Rajya Sabha about the movement of troops on the night of December 16-17,not any fresh movement.
Justice Arora said the Press Council was not a party to the case in which the court imposed restrictions on reporting of movement of Army troops,nor had the court issued the council any directions. Besides,the Press Council was a statutory body,with quasi-judicial functions.
As for the council chairman expressing an opinion on the judgment,Justice Arora said: …terming the order of the writ court as not correct is just an opinion of the Chairman of the Press Council of India,who has every right to fair and healthy criticism of the judgment.
The petition lacks bona fides and is an abuse of the process of the court. It appears that the petitioner has filed this petition just to come to limelight and nothing else, the bench said.