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HindustanTimes Sun,31 Aug 2014

Can false sting ops be made a punishable offence?

Satya Prakash, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 23, 2014
First Published: 22:43 IST(23/5/2014) | Last Updated: 22:55 IST(23/5/2014)

Can false sting operations be made a punishable offence? Should the law on defamation as applicable to journalists be modified? Should the law on contempt of court be amended to ensure freedom of the press?

These are some of the issues on which the Law Commission has invited suggestions from all stake holders to rationalise the law and streamline the regulatory mechanisms for the media industry.

In a consultation paper released on Friday, the panel that advises the government on legal issues said there was lack of clarity on various issues of regulation and enforceability in the media - print, electronic and radio.

"Media regulation in India is... not unified, and has a multiplicity of regulatory bodies. Further there are issues surrounding the enforceability of decisions of such bodies," the panel headed by Justice AP Shah said.

The issues on which the commission has invited suggestions included, regulatory mechanism for TV news industry, media and individual privacy, opinion polls, media trial and rights of accused, defamation, contempt of court, paid news, cross media ownership, regulation of government-owned media and circulation of objectionable content on social media.

It sought to know if a statutory body with powers to adjudicate complaints of false sting operations was needed and if media should be allowed to report on cases pending before courts. "What are the further legislative or Constitutional amendments necessary to the law on contempt of court to ensure freedom of the press?" it asked.

A TV channel, which conducted a sting operation during the general elections, had claimed that opinion polls were manipulated for monetary considerations.

The commission has sought suggestions as to whether opinion polls require any kind of regulation, and if so, of what kind.

In 2012, the Press Council of India had urged the government to bring electronic and social media within its regulatory framework and to rename it as the Media Council. Though the Print and Electronic Media Standards and Regulation Bill, 2012 proposed the establishment of an overall media regulatory authority, the Bill did not get introduced, the commission noted.

Regarding the government media which came in for criticism for censoring a portion of Narendra Modi's interview during the polls, the panel sought to know what regulations could be introduced to ensure independence of government-owned media.

The panel also invited suggestions on the controversial Section 66A of the Information Technology Act used to arrest many Facebook and Twitter users.

 "Should Section 66A of the IT Act be retained in its present form or should it be modified/ repealed? Is there a need for a regulatory authority with powers to ban/suspend coverage of objectionable material? If yes, should the regulatory authority be self-regulatory or should it have statutory powers?" it asked.

The commission said those desirous of submitting suggestions/comments may do so either in English or Hindi to the Member Secretary, Law Commission of India, HT House, 14th Floor, KG Marg, New Delhi -110001 by post of by email to lci-dla@nic within 30 days.


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