ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Fourth Estate

The ministry of information and broadcasting must take a new look at the functioning of the Press Council. As Justice P B Sawant, chairman of the council, has been arguing, the council should be empowered to punish those found guilty. But before that it is necessary to restructure the composition of the council.

For weeks on end Justice P B Sawant (retd), chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), has been demanding more powers to the body over which he presides. He has good reasons to. For years now the council has been receiving complaints against our wayward press and the council has been passing ‘judgments’ over them and the least expected of our newspapers is to publish the judgments even if they went against them. This implied duty has been serenely disregarded in almost every instance by our media. According to Justice Sawant, the Press Council Act, 1978 should be suitably amended to empower the council “to impose a fine up to Rs 10,000 for non-compliance” of its direction to a journal to publish its verdict against it and “per day fine (sic) up to Rs 100 till the compliance is made”.

The sad part of it is that, as lawyer A G Noorani writing in The Statesman (July 21) noted, “nobody cares much for the Press Council”. The PCI’s rulings are routinely disregarded as if they are of no consequence. This is an awful state for the press to be in. Consider this: a journal or newspaper is guilty of some misdemeanour. A reader submits a complaint against the newspaper concerned to the PCI. The PCI comes to some conclusion and this is conveyed to the erring newspaper. The PCI has no punitive power. It can only convey its point of view. If the erring newspaper refuses to publish the PCI’s judgment of what use is it to the reader?

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