New Delhi: After severe criticism from journalists for intervening in the petition filed by Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin in the Supreme Court, the Press Council of India (PCI) has called an ‘extraordinary meeting’ of the council on Tuesday to discuss the issue. The PCI had cited national interest and sovereignty to back restrictions on communications in J&K after special provisions of Article 370 were read down and the state was bifurcated into two Union Territories.
Jaishankar Gupta and C.K. Nayak, two current members of the PCI, had issued a statement taking a serious view of the “unilateral action” taken by the PCI chairman Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad. They also expressed surprise that the full council was not taken into confidence in such a grave matter.
In the meeting note for Tuesday, the chairman seems to justify his unilateral move citing rules and precedence. The note mentions that the PCI chairman had filed intervention applications in two earlier cases without placing it before the council. The chairman referred to interventions in the Meghalaya high court’s judgment on May 27, 2016 debarring the press/media from reporting statements of the HNLC relating to bandhs/hartals and in the Shillong Times v Union of India and Press Council of India case on March 26, 2019.
It is imperative to note that the council intervened in these two cases to defend the rights of the media. In Bhasin’s petition, the council is batting for restrictions.
The note also cites clause 8 of the Press Council (Procedure for Conduct of Meetings and Business) Regulations, 1979 which defines the powers of the chairman to make decisions in urgent matters. It allows the chairman, if urgent action by the council becomes necessary, to “take [a] decision and permit the business of the Council to be transacted by an order recorded in writing”.
However, the same clause also says that the papers together with the decision taken by the chairman shall be placed before the next meeting of the council for confirmation. As The Wire has reported earlier, current council members Gupta and Nayak had revealed in their statement that the full council met on August 22 for the entire day but there was “no mention” of the petition which had been filed in the SC.