New Delhi, Apr 11 (PTI) The newly-reconstituted Press Council deferred its meeting today to April 23 due to lack of quorum as only eight members have been notified so far by the government, Chairman Justice (retd) C K Prasad said.

The quorum requires at least 11 members, while the Press Council Act provides that the Council shall consist of a chairman and 28 other members.

“As the Council was notified by the government, there was no option but to convene the meeting of these members. I apprised the members about the quorum needed for the meeting as soon as the meeting commenced. There being lack of quorum, the meeting is adjourned to April 23,” Prasad told PTI.

Only four members — Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe, Swapan Dasgupta, Sushma Yadav and T G Venkatesh Babu — came for the meeting but the quorum to convene the meeting is 11 members, including the chairman, Prasad said.

On April 9, eight prominent media bodies wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to defer today’s meeting of the “truncated” Council, alleging that the PCI chairman has adopted “arbitrary” procedure to reconstitute it.

A PCI official said the notice is given 21 days before the meeting of the Council and it was expected that the government could have notified other names during that time which would have made the quorum. He also noted that this was for the first time that the government has not notified sufficient names, resulting in lack of quorum.

On March 16, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had notified the names of eight nominated members of the reconstituted PCI.

Apart from Babu, Sahasrabuddhe, Dasgupta, and Yadav, names of other members notified by the government included, Meenakshi Lekhi, Prathap Simha, Manan Kumar Mishra and K Sreenivasarao.

The PCI, a statutory body with a mandate to act as a watchdog to oversee conduct of the print media, was earlier reconstituted for three years in October 2014, whose term ended in October last year.

Prasad said the Council has submitted names of other members of the revamped PCI to the ministry, which will decide on its notification. Out of 20 remaining names to be notified, he said, the government could notify 19 names, leaving one name as the matter was in a court.

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has moved the Delhi High Court on PCI’s rejection of its nominee after which the court has stayed the Council’s decision.

In the letter to Modi, media bodies have alleged that the PCI chairman has adopted “arbitrary” procedure to reconstitute the Council, the accusation refuted by the chairman.

“The reconstitution…undertaken by Chairman Prasad has overlooked precedent and adopted a process to keep out certain media associations and candidates. His action has cast serious doubts over the autonomy and neutrality of the PCI, mandated to preserve and protect the freedom of the press,” the media bodies said in the letter.

Countering the allegations, Prasad said those precedent “not sanctioned by the law or contrary to the law” are “not fit” to be followed. “I followed this principle while making the nominations,” he said.

Prasad said it was also being projected that he had inducted some of the names in the reconstituted Council on his own. “It is not true. Every name that finds its place in the panel was given by the associations. The names were decided by the draw of lots strictly according to the rules,” he said.

“The cozy arrangement which was going on earlier and not sanctioned by the law has been broken by the chairman and I am proud to do that. I am holding a public office and my decisions are subject to scrutiny and therefore I am prepared to be questioned by dignified members of journalists’ community any day, any time at the place of their choice,” Prasad said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.