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Row over freedom of media escalates

The verbal war between top jurists on media regulation escalated on Monday with the former chief justice of India JS Verma asking the electronic and print media to "ignore the irresponsible utterances", hinting at the remarks of the newly-appointed Press Council of India (PCI) chief, Justice Markendey Katju. Nagendar Sharma reports.

delhi Updated: Nov 08, 2011 01:51 IST
Nagendar Sharma

The verbal war between top jurists on media regulation escalated on Monday with the former chief justice of India JS Verma asking the electronic and print media to "ignore the irresponsible utterances", hinting at the remarks of the newly-appointed Press Council of India (PCI) chief, Justice Markendey Katju.

Justice Verma, who heads News Broadcasters Association (NBA), the voluntary regulator of 45 private TV news channels, termed as "dangerous" any suggestions to curtail the freedom of media, irrespective of who made such comments.

The latest remarks by the former CJI followed a letter by Justice Katju to the NBA, in which he questioned the electronic media's principle of self regulation and suggested that it be brought under Lokpal's purview.

"Self-regulation is no regulation…I would like to know whether the NBA is willing to be placed under the Lokpal? You seem to be reluctant to come under the Press Council of India," Justice Katju said in a letter to the NBA secretary.

Asked for his response, Justice Verma replied : "I have better things to do than to respond to such irresponsible utterances. In my view certain things need to be completely ignored."

Without naming Justice Katju, the former CJI said it would be better if those commenting on Lokpal knew about the purpose for which it is being set-up.

On Justice Katju's comments suggesting the government should stop adverstisements of TV channels violating rules and wide powers to regulators to deal with such channels, Justice Verma replied: "Somebody is surely talking without knowing the meaning of it."

The former CJI said comments on putting curbs on the media "reflected a mindset reminiscent of the emergency days. The language is similar to what the then information and broadcasting minister VC Shukla used to say," Justice Verma said.

In his letter, Justice Katju had said news groups are "private bodies whose activities have a large influence on the public and must be answerable to them."