The Press Council of India (PCI) will challenge in the Supreme Court the Allahabad High Court order barring the print and electronic media from reporting on movement of troops.

The April 10 order came, following a report in The Indian Express on “un-notified” movement of troops towards the national capital which was subsequently described by the government as a routine exercise.

In a statement, PCI Chairman Markandey Katju said the High Court order was not correct. The media had a fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution to make such a publication, as it did not endanger national security. However, a balanced approach had to be taken on reporting troop movement.

“The Indian Army is not a colonial army, but the army of the Indian people who pay the taxes for the entire defence budget. Hence, the people of India have a right to know about army affairs, except where that may compromise national security. The media did an excellent job in exposing the Adarsh and Sukhna scams in which senior army officers were involved, and they were well within their rights under Article 19(1) (a) to do so.”

No general prohibition

Justice Katju said reporting on troop movement near the Indian border or during wartime should be prohibited as that might aid the enemy and cause harm to the Indian armed forces by compromising national security. But there could be no general prohibition of reporting on all troop movements. Without going into whether the news report was factually correct or not, Justice Katju said there could not have been a valid prohibition of such reporting. For, the troop movement was not on the Indian border, nor did it occur during wartime.

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