Press Council of India Chairperson Justice (retired) CK Prasad has allegedly blocked the council’s efforts to send a fact-finding team to Jammu and Kashmir even two months after deciding to do so, The Wire reported on Tuesday.

The council’s four-member fact-finding team was last scheduled to visit the Valley for five days in October, but the state administration reportedly advised them to come after November 4 due to the security situation, and because government offices were being moved from Srinagar to Jammu ahead of the winter.

Prasad had then told members that if they wanted to go ahead with visit without the state administration’s help, they could do so, The Indian Express had reported then. Prasad had let the team’s convenor PK Dash and other members to take the final call.

The council had decided to send the team during a meeting on August 22 to understand the impact of the communication lockdown in the region on the media. The lockdown had been imposed before the Centre revoked the state’s special status on August 5.

Senior journalist and council member Jaishankar Gupta told The Wire: “It is shameful that the team has still not been allowed to go. First, it was decided that the team would leave in September but it was not allowed to go. Then the team thought it could visit the state in the first week of October. Even that did not happen.”

Another council member, who was not identified in The Wire’s report, claimed that Prasad had been reluctant to send the team to the Valley. “He said there is no point going, and that the team would not be welcomed there,” the unidentified member said. “Then he said the team can go only if the state administration extends its hospitality to PCI. The state administration, then under Satya Pal Malik governorship, refused us entry.”

Malik was the last governor of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, who has now been appointed to the post in Goa. The state was bifurcated into two Union Territories on October 31, and both will have lieutenant governors.

When the team decided to go without the state administration’s support, Prasad did not allow it to proceed and kept pushing the date, the member alleged. In the first week of October, when the team again decided to go, Dash declined to lead the team.

“He [Dash] said he wasn’t keeping well and is recovering from a personal tragedy,” said the member. “He said that the other three members could go if they wanted. But even that did not happen.”

The member said it was Prasad who had nominated Dash as the team’s convenor. “Generally, the convenor of the team is unanimously chosen by the members but at that time no one objected to the chairman’s decision,” said the member. “We thought at least a team has been formed.”

“Although [Dash] refused to be part of the fact-finding team, he regularly attended council meetings,” the member added. “That was strange as it seemed the chairman and convenor got together to prevent the team from going.”

Gupta said that by not allowing the team to go, the council had marred its reputation as an independent institution.

In August, the Press Council of India had asked the Supreme Court’s permission to intervene in a petition against restrictions on the media in Jammu and Kashmir. The council had supported the ban on media and said it was “in the interest of the integrity and sovereignty of the nation”. However, it later reversed its position after a controversy.

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