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SC sends notice to Centre on a plea to constitute body to regulate media channels

The plea seeks the constitution of an independent body to regulate the operation of media channels.

By NL Team

Published on :

The Supreme Court today issued a notice to the Centre in a plea seeking the constitution of a broadcast regulatory authority in India to regulate the country’s vast electronic media. A Public Interest Litigation was filed by advocate Reepak Kansal and a three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice of India S A Bobde heard the plea. As reported by Livelaw, the bench directed the union government to furnish a response within four weeks regarding the possibility of a regulatory authority.

The PIL seeks the formation of an independent body, the Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India, which could regulate the electronic media channels and lead to development of broadcast services in the country. Currently, it points out, the electronic media does not fall under the purview of the Press Council of India. There is no existing law that brings broadcasting employees/anchors within the definition of journalists or broadcasting channels within the definition of "PRESS" or journalists, the PIL stated.

Apart from technical definitions, there are a few other concerns that the plea raises, one of them being being foreign investment in channels.

It alleges that “self-declared, uncontrolled and unregulated” electronic broadcasting channels are "falsely claiming" themselves as media and they are being run by “foreign/Indian investors in the name of news channels/media”. By “giving it in the hand of foreign investors”, there is a “clear cut misuse” of the fourth pillar of democracy. “There is scope to weaken the unity and strength of our nation by the foreign investors”, the plea argues.

The PIL also makes an appeal to restrict the broadcast media’s overreach "in the name of freedom of speech". It prays that the electronic media should be restricted from “assassinating” the dignity of an individual, community, religious saint or religious/political organisation, in the name of "press". Freedom of speech is not an absolute right in India and Clause 2 of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution enables the legislature to put certain restriction on free speech, the plea states.

Noting that airwaves are public property, Kansal's PIL states that it is necessary to regulate the use of such airwaves in “national and public interest”, particularly to ensure “proper dissemination of content and in the widest possible manner”.

The matter is scheduled to come up in the apex court in four weeks from now.

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