PIL in SC for panel to review media's legal framework

PIL in SC for panel to review media's legal framework

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 A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court for setting up an independent high-powered committee headed by a former chief justice of India or apex court judge to review the entire legal framework related to media business regulations and suggest guidelines for it.

Filmmaker Nilesh Navalakha and civil engineer Nitin Memane, in a joint plea, also asked the court to set up a media tribunal to adjudicate upon complaints against media, channels and networks, saying media, particularly the electronic one, has become like an unruly horse, which needs to be tamed.

The petition, filed through advocates Rajesh Inamdar, Shashwat Anand and Amit Pai, maintained that the plea is not to curb the fundamental rights of the media business, but only to bring about some accountability for misinformation, inflammatory coverage, fake news, breach of privacy, etc.

"The media is simply a business, albeit one which is one of the most powerful structures of power in itself, and thus, the same must be regulated by constitutional norms and principles," the plea said.

The petitioners sought to lay down guidelines outlining the broad regulatory paradigm within which media houses, that is broadcasters and electronic media, can exercise their rights under Article 19(1) of the Constitution, so as to judicially regulate them.

"The whole self-regulatory process makes the electronic media broadcaster a judge in his own case...since its role has changed, from service to business, and from mission to profession, in such circumstances, it cannot mechanically be referred to as the fourth pillar, to avert all judicial attempts at regulating it," they added.

The establishment of an independent, regulatory tribunal or judicial-body, can make hearing and expeditious adjudication upon complaint petitions against the media businesses filed by the viewers/citizens possible. The tribunal can bring about consequences for acting in a fashion that is contrary to constitutional goals and morality, they said.

The petitioners raised several legal issues, including if Article 21 of the Constitution envisaged the right of the citizens to free, fair and proportionate media reporting.

"The restrictions on the electronic media must be placed at a higher footing as over the past few years media trials have become the order of the day. These trials not only have a prejudicial effect on the rights of the accused but also its very concept is an anathema to the administration of justice," they added.