`Make attacks on journalists cognisable offence – Justice C K Prasad


प्रेस कौन्सिल ऑफ इंडियाचे चेअरमन सी.के.प्रसाद यांची मुलाखत आजच्या टाइम्स ऑफ इंडियाच्या संपादकीय पानावर प्रसिध्द झाली आहे.या मुलाखतीत न्या.प्रसाद यांनी पत्रकारांवरील हल्ला अजामिनपात्र गुन्हा असला पाहिजे असं मत व्यक्त केलं आहे.पीसीआय ने नेमलेल्या एका उपसमितीचा अहवालही पीसीआयनं स्वीकारला असून त्यातही पत्रकारांवरील हल्ला अजामिनपात्र गुन्हा ठरवावा आणि पत्रकांरांवरील हल्ल्याचे खटले जलदगती न्यायालयमार्फत चालवावेत अशी शिफारस केलेली आहे.ती पीसीआयनं स्वीकारली आहे.न्या.प्रसाद यांच्या आज प्रसिध्द झालेल्या मुलाखतीमुळे पीसीआयची या संबंधीची भूमिका अधिक स्पष्ट झाली आहे.पीसीआयची ही भूमिका पत्रकार हल्ला विरोधी कृती समितीच्या मागणीला बळकटी देणारी आहे.पत्रकार मित्रांसाठी ही मुलाखत टाइम्सच्या सौजन्यानं जशीच्या तशी येथे देत आहोत.

`Make attacks on journalists cognisable offence – bring electronic media under Press Council’-C K Prasad,chairman, Press Council of India (PCI)

Former Supreme Court judge Justice C K Prasad is Press Council of India (PCI) chairman, the Council now addressing recent assaults on journalists.Speaking with Himanshi Dhawan, Prasad discussed this vital issue, guidelines on hotly debated criminal defamation ­ and PCI seeking charge of electronic media too:

PCI’s noted a number of recent attacks on journalists ­ is there a marked increase?

Statistics don’t suggest more numbers of journalists being attacked ­ but when something happens in a gap of four weeks, it becomes a matter of concern.
Only recently, a couple of journalists have been killed.

Is PCI seeking a separate law to tackle intimidation of journalists?

Yes, a Press Council sub-committee submitted this recommendation. PCI adopted the report because assault to a journalist with reference to their work becomes very serious.
The problem is, simple hurt, as we call it in law, is a non-cognisable offence, meaning if somebody assaults you, you have to go file a complaint. You can’t go to a police station.If your mobile’s stolen, you can go to the police station and lodge a complaint. I personally believe you’ll feel worse if someone slaps you, rather than if he steals your mobile. Theft of a mobile’s a cognisable offence ­ assault on a person is not. Consequently , the procedure’s longdrawn. You go to court, file a complaint, meet lawyers. It’s very difficult. If a journalist is assaulted or intimidated in connection with performance of duty, it should be a cognisable offence. We’ve recommended punishment for five years. If somebody assaults someone today , i don’t think anyone goes to jail ­ there may be a fine of Rs 500. But if there’s an attack on a journalist about work, there should be a minimum punishment, say , six months which may extend to five years.

There’s also discussion on whether defamation should be a penal offence.
When i assess it objectively , civil litigation in this country is very cumbersome. Criminal litigation is a little faster ­ therefore, people resort to that.If you say there shouldn’t be criminal defamation, it is too bold a statement.My view is that for the defamatory act, where the prosecution will lie, that has to be decided. A defamatory statement is read widely . Somebody files a case in Kerala. Another files a case in Assam. That creates problems. There should be guidelines. With respect to a particular defamatory article, one can file only in one particular place.The law may contemplate the case be filed only where the article’s been published. You can’t ask a journalist to go to 30 places for one defamatory article.But you can’t curtail citizens’ rights also ­ you must make efforts that cases are clubbed together.

The earlier PCI chair sought for PCI to be renamed Media Council, taking electronic media also under its ambit ­ what’s your view?

I stand by the Council’s view that electronic media be brought under PCI.
When the Press Council was constituted, electronic media was unknown here. Today , it has significant impact.
We’ve decided we’ll take cognisance of cases of threat of killing or assault of journalists even if they’re from electronic media.


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