Delhi chief minister had also sought public trial of media as some media houses were conspiring against his party
GN Bureau | May 14, 2015
The supreme court has stayed a circular issued by the Delhi government on initiating defamation proceedings against media houses. The court asked on Thursday “why is there a need to issue the defamation circular”.
A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra passed the order on an application filed by Kapil Sibal's son Amit Sibal who had filed defamation case against Kejriwal.
The court pointed out that Kejriwal has challenged criminal defamation cases against him on the grounds that they encroach upon his right to freedom of speech. His lawyers have argued that defamation should be considered a civil wrong.
"You can't do both things together - come to the Supreme Court against defamation on one hand, and then take action against the media," the judges said.
According to the May 6 circular the Delhi government could file defamation cases against media organisations for publishing or broadcasting any news that damages the reputation of the chief minister, his council of ministers and the government.
The circular issued by the state information and publicity department said if any officer associated with the Delhi government feels that a published or aired item damages his or the government’s reputation, he should file a complaint with the principal secretary (home).
“In such a case, a reference letter containing details of the factual error, mode of publication, ground for considering it as defamatory, should be forwarded to principal secretary (home), who in turn should consult the director (prosecution) to check the possibility of legal action,” said a Delhi government official.
According to the circular, after getting a go-ahead from the director (prosecution), the matter should be referred to the law department and a case should be filed after the government approval.
The officials of the Delhi government have also been asked to monitor the news channels from 9 am to 11 pm. This is being done for the first time by the Delhi government.
Taking the lead, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal while defending his law minister Jitender Singh Tomar, accused of faking his law degree, had called for a “public trial” of the media. “There is a need for a public trial of the media to expose their bias,” he had said, speaking in Hindi but using the words “public trial” in English.
“A section of the media has tried everything to tarnish the Aam Aadmi Party’s image,” he said, adding some media houses were conspiring against his party.
“Why did not television channels highlight issues related to (surface transport minister Nitin) Gadkari but leave no stone unturned to showcase AAP issues? We need transparency in the media.”
If it was needed at all, the supreme court has cleared the air. The Lokpal Act, it has ruled, is perfectly implementable even without the pending amendments. The interpretation from the apex court is welcome, but the government does not seem to be in any hurry to appoint the ombudsman in the first place.
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