Revisit rules on RS passes for freelance scribes: HC

The Delhi High Court has said that it would be advisable for the Media Advisory Committee (MAC) of the Rajya Sabha to “revisit” its rules of restricting the issuance of passes to journalists under the freelance category to only sessional passes.

Justice Navin Chawla made the observation while dismissing the plea of Anil Chamadia, a freelance journalist, seeking direction to the MAC to issue a permanent pass to him for covering the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha.

Mr. Chamadia had challenged the decision of MAC taken in the meeting held on July 06, 2017 discontinuing its earlier practice of issuing an annual pass to the journalist under the freelance category.

He had argued that issuance of only sessional passes to freelance journalists would restrict their right to access information when the Parliament is not in session. He contended that non-issuance of an annual pass would deny the freelance journalist of first-hand access to information.

The High Court, however, said that “no person, be a journalist or otherwise, can claim an open access to the precinct of the Parliament. No person has an unfettered right to enter the same”. It also pointed out that Mr. Chamadia had not challenged the original decision of MAC passed on November 19, 2011 to issue only sessional passes to freelance journalists prospectively.

The court additionally highlighted that as per the website of the Office of Registrar of Newspapers for India, 1,18,239 are the number of registered publications as on March 31, 2018.

The website of the Press Information Bureau gives a list of 2,494 people in the ‘PIB Accredited Media Person List 2020’. Therefore, necessarily a criteria has to be adopted for issuing passes to the journalist for entry into the Parliament House, Justice Chawla said.

“The rules/regulations for admission to Rajya Sabha press gallery/central hall’ makes a distinction between newspapers on the basis of their circulation, news agencies, non-wire news-agency and feature service, for purpose of weekly, fortnightly and monthly passes,” the judge said.

“It also provides for issuance of temporary press gallery card to a freelance journalist. Without going into the number of passes and the nature of passes issued to these categories, the distinction made between various categories on the basis of circulation or the nature of agency et cetera, cannot be said to be arbitrary,” Justice Chawla said.

“Clearly there are two conflicting interests that are to be balanced and tested on the touchstone of doctrine of proportionality,” the court said, adding, “it would be advisable for the respondents (MAC) to revisit its Rules and Guidelines for issuance of passes keeping in view the mandate of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.”

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 9:53:53 AM |

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