PCI says no powers to prosecute media

Last Updated 02 December 2018, 19:30 IST

The Press Council of India (PCI) has told the Supreme Court that it has no power to launch prosecution against any erring media person or organisations as it can at the most issue censure and that too only against print media.

“It is evident that the Press Council of India has jurisdiction over the print media only and has powers to issue censure and the statute does not empower the council of launch prosecution against the erring persons,” the body said, referring to the PCI Act.

In an affidavit, the PCI, headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice C K Prasad, told the court that the law does not provide for initiation of a criminal proceeding against the person violating the provisions of the PCI Act.

“Therefore, the council does not have mandate to launch a criminal prosecution, which may however be initiated against the offenders by the police under other statutes,” it added.

Maintaining that the PCI has risen to the occasion and has taken action against newspapers for violation of provisions of various statutes and rules and the norms in reporting about a sexual offence, particularly against minor children, it said that the body has framed “Norms of Journalistic Conduct, 2010”, wherein specific provision has been made with regard to right to privacy and reporting in cases of sexual abuse.

The affidavit was filed by the PCI in the court in a matter arising out of reporting of sexual assaults of inmates and young girls at Muzaffarpur shelter home.

Hearing a petition filed by Patna-based journalist Nivedita Jha, the top court restrained media organisations from holding any interview of the sexual offence victims or publishing photograph or pictures even in blurred form.

According to Section 228 A of the Indian Penal Code, disclosing identity of rape victim is a punishable offence with maximum prison term of two years and fine.

The court had on October 22 asked the Press Council of India and voluntary bodies like the National Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Editors Guild of India to tell specifically in how many cases prosecution has been launched against media houses for revealing identity of rape victims.

The court, which appointed senior advocate Shekhar Naphade as amicus curiae, decided to hear the matter so far as reporting of incidents in press and electronic media was concerned on February 7.

With regard to Muzaffarpur case, the counsel said that there was no such material available on record to show that any of journalists forcibly and unduly interacted with the survivors.

However, details of the investigation and location of the survivors and their shifting from one place to another, their visit to hospitals for medical examination, etc were reported in detail which may expose the survivors’ identity.

Therefore, the council was considering initiation of proper proceedings against such newspapers, it said.

(Published 02 December 2018, 11:22 IST)

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