New Delhi, May 29 (PTI) The Delhi High Court today sought the response of the Centre and Press Council of India on a plea by the Indian Newspapers Society (INS) seeking to set aside a notification renominating Justice C K Prasad as the press body’s chairman.
Justice Rajiv Shakdher asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Press Council of India (PCI) and its chairman to file their responses on the petition.
The court listed the matter for July 30, along with two pending petitions, including one filed by the INS against rejection of the nomination of Hormusji N Cama, owner of Mumbai Samachar weekly and a member of the INS, in the category of medium newspapers.
The other plea was filed by a journalist seeking direction to the government to notify the newly selected members of the PCI in terms of 13th committee and publish the gazette notification in this regard.
In the fresh petition, the INS today told the court that the council shall consist of a Chairman and 28 other members — 20 nominees who represent working journalists and eight non-press nominees — who are required to be notified by the central government.
Senior advocate Ramji Srinivasan, appearing for the INS, said the 20 members for the Press were nominated in March but the Centre has not nominated them even after two months.
However, the eight non-press nominees were nominated in March itself and now, the Ministry of I&B has issued a notification on May 22 that Justice Prasad has been re-nominated as the PCI chairman, the counsel said.
“They don’t notify press people, they go and re-elect the chairman. If I (press nominees) would have been notified earlier, I would have been able to participate in the re-election of the Chairman,” Srinivasan and advocates Rakesh Sinha and Pawan Kumar Bansal said.
The petition also sought direction to prohibit the government and PCI from taking any steps in furtherance of the May 22 notification.
They sought direction to the Centre to certify and place before the court all the records relating to the May 22 notification so that it may be quashed.
The plea said the council comprised of 28 members and therefore, the May 22 order re-nominating the chairman was faulty.
Prasad, reitred judge of the Supreme Court, headed the media watchdog for three years from November 2014. He had succeeded Justice Markanday Katju.
A three-member committee headed by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu had given its nod for appointing Prasad as the PCI chief for a second term.
When the court asked the central government standing counsel Aseem Sood, appearing for the Ministry of I&B, as to “what was happening on notification of press people”, he said he would find out and seek instructions on it.
The court noted that on May 21 while hearing journalist Anil Kumar Sharma’s similar plea, it had clarified that there was no impediment on the ministry to notify the names of newly selected members of the council.
The court had earlier too sought response of the Centre and PCI on the journalist’s plea seeking that the government be directed to permit the functioning of outgoing PCI committee, which was constituted for the period of 2014-17, as the new committee has not been notified owing to the stay granted by the high court in a related matter last month.
It had in April stayed the decision of the PCI insofar as it related to rejecting the nomination of Cama.
In the earlier petition, the INS had alleged that the PCI chairman had misread the provisions of the Press Council Act and “wrongly exercised” its power in rejecting the nomination.
Claiming that the decision was “perverse”, the INS had said the council’s decision should be set aside as it was “bad, illegal and void”.
According to the Press Council Act, the council shall consist of a Chairman and 28 other members. The chairman had said that the nomination of the editors among working journalist categories did not contain twice the number of members to be nominated.
INS has said in the petition that Cama was a member of the PCI in its 12th term and was seeking nomination to the council in the 13th term.
The INS, which comprises owners of big, medium and small newspapers in India, has sought a direction to the PCI chairman to recall and set aside the March 20 decision and forbear from taking any steps in furtherance of the decision.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.