Defamation: ‘Press Council should appeal against Supreme Court order’

Expressing concern over the implications of the Supreme Court order upholding criminalising defamation, the former media adviser to Prime Minister and retired Director of Press Information Bureau, S. Narendra, said the Press Council of India (PCI) should appeal against the order in the interest of press freedom.

Speaking after inaugurating a discussion on “Criminalising Defamation” at a programme organised by Mysuru District Journalists' Association (MDJA) here on Saturday, Mr. Narendra said PCI should come to the rescue of the media by approaching the Supreme Court against the verdict. If need be, PCI should implead itself in the case.

Also, various media organisations in the country should approach the Law Commission of India and represent their grievances on the matter, he said.

Mr. Narendra, however, regretted that PCI was not playing the role expected of it after the advent of the new media, including television and the internet.

He said that the role of a watchdog that the media plays in society will be affected by criminalising defamation and added that democracy itself was threatened if media is stifled.

Mr. Narendra, who served as a media advisor to three Prime Ministers — P.V. Narasimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral — said successive governments had tried to control and censor the media in India, beginning with the Prevention of Publication of Objectionable Matter Act in 1950. Later governments at the Centre too had tried to stifle press freedom, he said.

Legal expert C.K.N. Raja, who also spoke on the occasion, however welcomed the Supreme Court ruling to uphold criminalising of defamation and said the order was in keeping with the constitutional ideology.

He said every citizen of India had equal rights to respect and dignity. “Nobody has a right to defame and hurt anybody’s feelings, including the media,” he said.

Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with defamation, was a well thought out law and there was no need to tamper with it, he said. Referring to freedom of speech and expression,

Mr. Raja said nobody can be given unrestricted and absolute freedom and it was only fair to place certain reasonable restrictions on freedom of press.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 3:17:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/Defamation-%E2%80%98Press-Council-should-appeal-against-Supreme-Court-order%E2%80%99/article14467994.ece

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