The Press Council of India (PCI) and the Government were at loggerheads over the issue of the media body’s powers, after it decided to serve a bailable arrest warrant against Union I& B Ministry Secretary Sunil Arora for failing to appear before it following a summons.
Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I & B) sources said on Friday that the PCI had “limited powers” and could not decide everything, unlike the judiciary, which is an independent institution recognised by the constitution.
PCI Chairman Justice (retd) C K Prasad, however, said the Council was of the “prima facie” view that it did have the powers to issue such a warrant.
At the same time, he said the Council was willing to listen to the I&B Ministry’s contention in this regard.
The unanimous decision to secure Arora’s attendance before the council at its next scheduled meeting here on April 22, was taken by its members at their meeting on April 11 under the Chairmanship of Prasad.
The PCI on March 17 had decided to institute a suo motu inquiry into the “continued apathy” of the I&B Ministry towards the activities of the council particularly at its efforts to preserve the freedom of the press and its mandate under the Press Council Act and directed its Secretary to appear before it on April 11. Arora is due to retire on April 30.
Prasad said the ministry had, in its initial response, questioned the council’s powers but in another communication on Wednesday, said the I&B secretary would come.
A request was also made to the council to consider a change in the date for the secretary’s appearance.
Regarding the request, Prasad said a decision would be taken after seeking the views of all the council members, amid suggestions by a few that the direction for issuing the warrant be kept in abeyance.
Prasad on Wednesday said the council received a communication from the ministry on that day in which it was said the Secretary was not present here to receive the notices as he was out of the country and that he would appear before it.