On Monday, the Bombay High Court asked the Centre as to why is there no monitoring for the content on the media channels. Something that is similar to the Press Council of India which keeps print media in check.
The division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni asked the Centre:
“Is there a statutory mechanism for broadcasters? When you have a Press Council of India for print media, why do not you have a similar mechanism for electronic media? Why should they have an open hand?”
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representing the government, told the court, “It is not as if the government is not doing anything. It does take action on complaints received against channels. There are other mechanisms. It is to ensure that the media remains independent. But ultimately, the government cannot control everything. The press has freedom and its rights.”
Seeking responses from the Centre and the broadcasters’ associations, the court posted further hearing to Wednesday.
The division bench is hearing multiple PILs related to media coverage in the probe into actor Sushant Singh Rajpuit’s death, including one by activists Nilesh Navlakha, Mahibub D Shaikh and Subhash Chander Chaba through senior counsel Devadatt Kamat along with advocates Rajesh Inamdar and Shashwat Anand. Their PIL states that the nature of reporting by TV channels is one of “sensationalism”, which is adversely impacting the ongoing CBI probe into the case.
The court is also hearing other PILs filed by eight former senior police officers from Maharashtra and an NGO, seeking restraining orders against “media trial” in the case.
In their plea, the activists submitted that news channels need to scrupulously follow the Programme Code as per the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, and the Centre has to issue relevant directions in this regard.
The court also referred to an affidavit filed by the Centre, stating that the Union I&B Ministry had earlier submitted that the question of media trial in the case was referred to NBA and the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) for a probe. The affidavit stated that the government has an inter-ministerial committee to review decisions after the complaint is dealt with by these authorities. The bench sought to know who can impose penalties against news channels and said this was not clarified in the Centre’s affidavit in reply to the pleas.
As the media houses have no watchdog they run rampant with their content, publicly vilifying anything and anyone they like. This move will be welcomed.