PCI Issues Showcause Notice to the Telegraph Over Its President Kovind Headline

The Press Council of India has issued the notice for a March 17 front page headline which read “Kovind, not Covid, did it”, in reference to former CJI Ranjan Gogoi being nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

Mumbai: Claiming that the Telegraph newspaper “violated norms of journalistic conduct”, the Press Council of India has issued a showcause notice to its editor for a March 17 front page headline which read “Kovind, not Covid, did it”.

The press note issued on March 18 stated that the PCI chairperson Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad has “noted with concern” the satirical use of the name of President Ram Nath Kovind in the headline for a story on former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi’s nomination to the Rajya Sabha.

The council, in its statement, has claimed that it is “prima facie of the opinion that satirical comments, ridiculing and denigrating the first citizen of the country is uncalled for and beyond the call of fair journalistic comment”.

The publication, in this article, had looked at the trajectories of many other judges who were appointed to the Rajya Sabha and observed, “Never before in Indian history has a former CJI been nominated to the upper house just months after retiring. Gogoi retired in November last year, days after the Ayodhya verdict.”

Gogoi was addressed as “Rafale-Ayodhya judge Gogoi”, referring to the verdicts passed by Gogoi as the CJI of the Supreme Court.

“Justice Gogoi had headed the Supreme Court benches that awarded the disputed Ayodhya site to Hindus to build a Ram temple and declined a plea to probe the Rafale fighter plane deal. Justice Gogoi had also publicly defended the exercise for the National Register of Citizens in Assam,” the article read.

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Reacting to the criticism that followed soon after his nomination to the RS by President Kovind, Gogoi had told the press in Gauhati that, “I have accepted it since I have a strong conviction that the legislative and the judiciary must at some point of time work together for nation-building. My presence in parliament will be an opportunity to project the views of the judiciary before the legislature and vice versa.”

He added, “…let me first take the oath, then I will speak in detail to the media why I accepted this.”

This is not the first time that the PCI has raised such objections or attempted to meddle with press freedom. In August, last year, the media watchdog, which is statutorily tasked with ensuring “freedom of the press”, had cited ‘national interest’ while justifying the ban on the internet and even free travel in Kashmir that followed after Article 370 was struck down.

The PCI had sought permission from the Supreme Court to intervene in a petition filed by Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin that demanded an end to the communications restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir.