The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the Centre why it did not have a mechanism to regulate television news channels like the print media, Bar and Bench reported.
A bench of Justices Dipankar Datta and GS Kulkarni raised the question while hearing a batch of petitions against the “media trial” in actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
“Is there a statutory mechanism for [TV news] broadcasters?” the bench asked Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, according to PTI. “Just as how the Press Council of India exists for the print media, why don’t you [the Centre] think of a similar council for the electronic media? Why should they have an open hand?”
Singh told the judges that the government was doing its bit to regulate TV content. “It is not as if the government is not doing anything,” he said. “It does take action on complaints received [against the TV channels]. “But ultimately, the government cannot control everything. The press has freedom and its rights.”
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The bench then cited the Centre’s affidavit where it had said that the complaints were forwarded to private organisations such as the News Broadcasters Association and the News Broadcasters Federation.
Senior advocate Devadatt Kamat, who represented the NBA, told the court that the government must take responsibility of media coverage concerns and not shift it to private organisations. “When government has a regime in place, where is the question of the GOI [Government of India] abdicating its duties and asking these private, self-righteous associations [to look into the complaints]?” he was quoted as saying by PTI. The court, meanwhile, said it will continue hearing the case on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, top Bollywood filmmakers and producers filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court against Republic TV and Times Now for their “irresponsible reporting” on Rajput’s case. They objected to the derogatory portrayal of the film industry by these channels.
Last month, the Bombay High Court had told the Centre that it was “surprised” that there was no provision for a statutory body to regulate electronic media. Before that, the Press Council of India had advised media organisations to adhere to journalistic standards, refrain from sensational reporting and not conduct a parallel trial in the investigation into Rajput’s death. The Network of Women in Media had also criticised media houses for targeting Rhea Chakraborty and said investigating authorities should be allowed to do their job fairly.