Press Council of India
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The Press Council of India is a statutory body in India that governs the conduct of the print media. It is one of the most important bodies that sustain democracy, as it has supreme power in regard to the media to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained. However, it is also empowered to hold hearings on receipt of complaints and take suitable action where appropriate. It may either warn or censure the errant journalists on finding them guilty. It did so on 21 July 2006, when it censured three newspapers — Times of India (Delhi and Pune), Punjab Kesari (Delhi) and Mid Day (Mumbai) — for violation of norms of journalistic conduct. The Council's actions may not be questioned unless it is proved to be in violation of the constitution, which makes it an exceedingly powerful body.
Powers, practice and procedure
The Press Council of India was first set up on 4 July 1966 by the Parliament to regulate the press in India. The basis at that time was the Press Council Act, 1965 which resulted from the recommendations of the First Press Commission of India (1952-1954). The stated objectives were "to help newspapers maintain their independence" and to "raise the standards" through a code of conduct, maintaining "high professional standards" and "high standards of public taste". However, after 1978, the Council functions under the Press Council Act 1978 which arose from the recommendations of the Second Press Commission of India (1978) which argued, among other things, for a "cordial relationship between the government and the press".
The Press Council is a statutory, quasi-judicial body which acts as a watchdog of the press. It adjudicates the complaints against and by the press for violation of ethics and for violation of the freedom of the press respectively.
The Press Council is headed by a Chairman: usually, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India (except for the first chairman, Justice J. R. Mudholkar, who was a sitting judge of Supreme Court of India in 1968). The Council consists of 28 other members of whom 20 represent the press and are nominated by the press organisations/news agencies recognised and notified by the Council as all India bodies of categories such as editors, working journalists and owners and managers of newspaper; 5 members are nominated from the two houses of Parliament and 3 represent cultural, literary and legal fields as nominees of the Sahitya Academy, University Grants Commission (U.G.C.) and the Bar Council of India. The members serve on the Council for a term of three years. The Council was last reconstituted on 22 May 2001. The present Chairman is Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad.
The Council is funded by revenue collected by it as fees levied on the registered newspapers in the country on the basis of their circulation. No fee is levied on newspapers with a circulation of less than 5000 copies. The deficit is made good by grants by the Central Government, through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
A complaint against a newspaper for any publication the complainant finds objectionable and affecting him personally, or for non-publication of any material, should first be taken up with the editor or other representative of the publication concerned.
If the complaint is not resolved satisfactorily, it may be referred the Press Council of India. The complaint must be specific and in writing and should be filed/lodged within two months of the publication of the impugned news item in case of dailies and weeklies and four months in all other cases, along with the original/photostat copy of the impugned clipping (an English translation if the matter is in a South Asian language). The complainant must state in what manner the publication/non-publication of the matter is objectionable within the meaning of the Press Council Act, 1978, and enclose a copy of the letter to the editor, pointing out why the matter is considered objectionable. The editor's reply thereto or published rejoinder, if any, may also be attached to it. A declaration stating that the matter is not pending in any court of law is also required to be filed.
If a newspaper or journalist is aggrieved by any action of any authority that may impinge on the freedom of the press, he can also file a complaint with the Council. The aggrieved newspaper or journalist may inform the Council about the possible reason for the action of the authorities against him i.e. if it is as a reprisal measure taken by the authorities due to critical writings or as a result of krisan the policy that may affect the freedom of the press (supporting documents, with English translation if they are in a South Asian language, should be filed). A declaration regarding the non-pendency of the matter in any court of law is also necessary.
On receipt of a complaint made to it or otherwise, if the Council is prima facie satisfied that the matter discloses sufficient ground for inquiry, it issues a show cause notice to the respondents and then considers the matter through its Inquiry Committee on the basis of written and oral evidence tendered before it. If, on inquiry, the Council has reason to believe that the respondent newspaper has violated journalistic norms, the Council keeping in view the gravity of the misconduct committed by the newspaper, warns, admonishes or censures the newspaper or disapproves of the conduct of the editor or the journalist as the case may be. It may also direct the respondent newspaper to publish the contradiction of the complainant or a gist of the Council’s decision in its forthcoming issue.
Similarly, when the Council upholds the complaint of the aggrieved newspaper/journalist the Council directs the concerned government to take appropriate steps to redress the grievance of the complainant. The Council may, if it considers necessary, make such observations, as it may think fit, in any of its decisions or reports, respecting the conduct of any authority, including Government.