Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Press Council Chief Urges SC And Bombay HC To ‘Reconsider’ Their Orders ,100cr fine on Times Now ‘disproportionate’: Katju

Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court to “reconsider” their orders that Times Now deposit Rs 100 crore (in cash and bank guarantees) as a pre-condition for its appeal against a Pune court’s verdict to be heard. “With great respect to these orders I am of the view that they are incorrect and require to be reconsidered,” he said.
Justice Katju said that in his opinion, “the appropriate order would have been to give a severe warning to the TV channel to be careful in future. Imposition of a Rs 100-crore fine was, in my respectful opinion, grossly disproportionate to the offence and the principle of proportionality that is now well-settled in our jurisprudence.”
Speaking at seminar on the occasion of National Press Day, the former Supreme Court judge said: “It is true that Times Now channel made a mistake of showing a photograph of Justice P B Sawant instead of Justice Samanta in the Ghaziabad PF scam, but from the facts it appears to be an inadvertent human error for which an apology was given several times.”
“It does not seem that there was any malicious intent and the unintentional mistake was due to a technical mix-up. We are all human beings and we all make mistakes,” he added.
Times Now had moved a special leave petition (SLP) before
the SC seeking relief on the conditions imposed by the high court for an appeal against a verdict of the Pune trial court awarding damages of Rs 100 crore to complainant Justice P B Sawant. The HC had stipulated that Times Now first deposit Rs 20 crore in cash and another Rs 80 crore in bank guarantees before it hears the appeal. A two-judge bench of the SC found no error with the HC order. It dismissed the SLP and asked Times Now to put forth its arguments before the HC.
The crippling economic implication of the order for the TV channel has alarmed the Editors’ Guild of India and media bodies. Former Chief Justice of India J S Verma on Monday said he wished Justice Sawant had “ignored the lapse”.
Justice Katju, who created a buzz with certain critical comments about the media soon after he assumed office, has also issued a clarification on his reported comments, excerpts of which was published by The Hindu on Wednesday. He said in his clarification that “the media should regard me as their wellwisher.” He said, “By criticizing the media, I wanted to persuade them to change their manner of functioning—not that I wanted to destroy them.”
He added that in a democracy, “issues are ordinarily resolved by discussion, persuasion, consultation and dialogue, and that is the method I prefer, rather than using harsh measures.”

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