HC suggests setting up a Press Council of T.N.

Judges say move can help weed out bogus journalists indulging in blackmail and other crimes

Published - January 12, 2020 01:10 am IST - CHENNAI

Chennai, 11/4/2008:  Madras High Court  in Chennai on Friday.  Photo: V. Ganesan.

Chennai, 11/4/2008: Madras High Court in Chennai on Friday. Photo: V. Ganesan.

In an attempt to save the interests of genuine journalists and prevent the image of the media from taking a beating, the Madras High Court has embarked on an exercise to identify and weed out those who were roaming around under the cloak of journalists and using it as a shield to indulge in criminal activities such as blackmailing.

Justices N. Kirubakaran and P. Velmurugan have asked the State government as to why it should not constitute a statutory body, such as the Press Council of India, to take action against bogus and errant journalists. They have also called for details from the police on the criminal cases booked against those claiming to be journalists.

Not stopping with collection of information from the officials, the court suo motu included the Madras Union of Journalists, the Madras Reporters Guild and the Chennai Press Club as respondents to a random writ petition before them and sought to know the credentials of the members as well as office-bearers of these associations.

“When was the last membership enrolment conducted for the associations? When was the last election conducted? Whether fake press people and people unconnected with the profession have entered into the associations and dominating the genuine press people and what are all the acts done by those fake press people,” were the other questions posed by the court.

The judges wanted both the official respondents and the three associations to answer the queries by January 21 without fail. Notices were ordered to be sent to them in person as well by e-mail, courier and WhatsApp. The issue was taken up during the hearing of a case filed by S. Sekaran, who claimed to be a “press reporter” in his affidavit.

The case was filed seeking a police inquiry into inflated investigation figures allegedly submitted by former Inspector General of Police A.G. Ponn Manickavel in the High Court to get himself appointed as Special Officer of Idol Wing CID for a period of one year after his retirement. The retired IGP, in turn, questioned the credentials of the litigant.

Petitioner’s credentials

Directed to prove his credentials, the petitioner claimed that he was the editor of a Tamil fortnightly titled, ‘Manidha Manam’ for the last 10 years, besides being a freelance journalist contributing to other publications. His counsel submitted about six identity cards issued to him by the Department of Information and Public Relations in the past.

The bunch of identity cards produced by the counsel contained a seventh card, which turned out to be an identity card issued by the Police department to suspended Deputy Superintendent of Police Kadar Basha, who was prosecuted by Mr. Manickavel for having recovered precious artefacts from idol smugglers and sold them away for high prices.

“This raises suspicion with regard to the bona fide of the petitioner in approaching this court by filing this public interest litigation. Further, this court also suspects that the petitioner has filed the present writ petition at the instance of some third parties,” the judges said and directed the High Court Registry to keep all the identity cards in a sealed cover.

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