Delhi High Court sets aside PCI decision rejecting INS nomination for membership

Hormusji N. Cama. File

Hormusji N. Cama. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The court directed the chairman of PCI to re-consider the eligibility of Hormusji N Cama, Director of Mumbai Samachar and a member of the INS, keeping in view the material placed by the Society.

The Delhi High Court has set aside a decision of the Press Council of India and asked it to reconsider the nomination of a member proposed by the Indian Newspapers Society (INS) for filling up vacancies in the PCI’s 13th term in 2018.

The court directed the chairman of PCI to re-consider the eligibility of Hormusji N Cama, Director of Mumbai Samachar and a member of the INS, keeping in view the material placed by the Society.

The court passed the judgement on the plea by INS against the rejection of nomination of Mr. Cama in the category of medium newspapers.

“The impugned order dated March 20, 2018 in so far as it holds the respondent no.3 [Mr. Cama] to be ineligible to be nominated under Section 5(3)(b) of the Act to the PCI is set aside....,” Justice Navin Chawla said in a recent judgement.

The court said it is important to remember that the purpose of establishment of the PCI is for preserving free Press and for maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India.

“It is, therefore, important to ensure adequate and proper representation of each category of members, as has been mentioned in...the [Press Council] Act, in the PCI,” it said.

According to the Act, the council consists of a Chairman and 28 other members. The PCI Chairman had said that the nomination of the Editors among Working Journalist categories did not contain the required number of members to be nominated.

The judge said there was no merit in the submission of the INS counsel that instead of remanding the matter back to the chairman for fresh consideration, the court should direct Mr. Cama to be nominated under the Act as a member of PCI, which was represented through advocate T. Singhdev.

The court rejected the INS counsel’s submission that the chairman of the previous council should not have embarked upon an enquiry into the eligibility of Mr. Cama as was done and held him to be ineligible.

“While it is true that there is a presumption of eligibility of a person being nominated by the association, it cannot be extended to a state of fait accompli for the Chairman of the PCI. As far as the Chairman of the council is concerned, he can hold an inquiry to determine the eligibility of such person being nominated, however, being guided by a presumption that such person is eligible,” the court said.

The INS plea contended that the PCI Chairman misread the provisions of the Press Council Act and “wrongly exercised” its power in rejecting the nomination.

Claiming that the decision was “perverse”, the INS had said the council’s decision should be set aside as it was “bad, illegal and void”.

The petition had said that the Chairman was required to invite the panel of names from notified associations for filling up 20 out of 28 vacancies in the PCI and out of those 20, six were to be filled up from among owners or managers of big, small and medium newspapers.

It had said that the PCI rejected the panel of names submitted by the INS by taking the view that it did not contain 12 names for the six vacancies.

“Although the PCI Chairman took the view that the panel was defective as only eight names were provided, yet he purportedly examined the eligibility of each individual name in the panel,” the plea had said, adding that the Chairman proceeded to hold that out of the eight names, Mr. Cama and Kalyan Barooah were ineligible.

Rest of the six were held eligible, it had said.

The petition had said Mr. Cama was a member of the PCI in its 12th term and was seeking nomination to the council in the 13th term.

The INS, which comprises owners of big, medium and small newspapers in India, has sought a direction to the PCI Chairman to recall and set aside the March 20, 2018 decision and forbear from taking any steps in furtherance of the decision.

The plea had said that the PCI should accept the names submitted by the INS on March 13, 2018 and select Mr. Cama as per the indicated preference in the category of the medium-size newspapers under the Act.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 3:19:24 PM |

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