Press Council chief bats for ‘Porngate’ journos

Close on the heels of his missives to the chief ministers of Bihar and Maharashtra, the chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), Justice Markandey Katju, has shot off a letter to the speaker of the Karntaka legislative assembly against the crackdown on the media in Karnataka following the Porngate expose.

Below is the full text.

***

The  Hon’ble Speaker
Karnataka  Legislative Assembly,
Bangaluru.

Respected Sir,

Re: Proceedings against mediapersons for telecasting MLAs  watching porn

Some MLAs of the Karnataka legislative assembly were filmed watching porn in the Assembly hall. Instead of commending the mediapersons for their professionalism, proceedings have been started against them.

In my respectful opinion such proceedings against the mediapersons jeopardize the freedom of the media guaranteed as a fundamental right by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India, and seek to create an impression that it is the media which has brought the House into disrepute rather than the MLAs  involved.

I am informed that an inquiry committee has been set up by the House to enquire into the matter.

In my respectful opinion the inquiry committee can certainly ask the mediapersons concerned questions to ascertain the correct facts about this sordid affair. But from what I could gather, the question being asked give the impression that the mediapersons are being treated as an accused of some offence, and are being grilled accordingly.

Since grave Constitutional questions are involved in this episode I would like to dwell on the matter in some detail.

In our country it is the Constitution which is supreme, not the legislature or executive. The people of India, in their wisdom, and following the examples of the American and French Constitutions, did not give the legislature absolute sovereignty but only limited sovereignty.

Thus the Indian Constitution does not incorporate Hobbes’ theory of absolute sovereignty (see ‘Leviathan’) but instead it incorporates Locke’s theory of limited sovereignty (see ‘the Second Treatise on Civil Government’) and Rousseau’s theory of sovereignty of the people (see ‘The Social Contract’).

Hence neither the legislature nor the executive can violate the constitutional provisions, particularly the fundamental rights like Article 19 (1) (a).

In a democracy it is the people who are supreme, and all authorities, whether legislative, executive or judicial, are only servants of the people. This is also borne out from the Preamble to the Indian Constitution which states:

“We, the People of India,…………..do hereby adopt, enact and give ourselves this Constitution.”

Since the people are the masters , and the legislators only their representatives, surely the public has the right to be informed of the activities of the legislators. And the media is an agency of the people to give them this information.

Hence I do not see what wrong the media has done by telecasting the watching of porn by the MLAs in the House. To my mind the media were only doing their duty to the people of informing them of the shameful manner in which some of their representatives were behaving.

In this connection I would like to refer to the following words in the judgment of Justice Hugo Black of the US Supreme Court in New York Times  vs. U.S 403 U.S. 713, 1973  (the Pentagon Papers case):

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. In my view far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers deserve to be commended for serving the purpose which the Founding Father saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of the government which led to the Vietnam War the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.”

To use similar language, far from deserving condemnation, the mediapersons who revealed to the nation the disgusting scenes of MLAs  watching porn in the House deserve to be applauded for their courageous reporting.

Ordinarily, in a democracy all proceedings in a Legislative Assembly must be freely telecast and reported so that the people, who are the supreme authority in a democracy, know how their representatives are behaving. There may, of course, be exceptional situations where this cannot be done.

For example, in the Second World War many secret sessions of the House of Commons were held so that Nazi spies may not know the views of the British political leaders. But such secrecy can only be in exceptional situations. I fail to see what was the exceptional situation in Karnataka which could justify prohibiting mediapersons to report events in the House.

I would therefore respectfully request you to reconsider your decision and withdraw the proceedings against the mediapersons, and instead take strong action against the MLAs who have brought disgrace to the House.

Justice Markandey Katju

Chairman, Press Council of India

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7 Responses to “Press Council chief bats for ‘Porngate’ journos”

  1. Kumar Says:

    Salutes to Justic Katju Ji for his remarkable letter….

  2. Dr.shankara prasad Says:

    Thanks for posting Justice Katju’s letter.

    I am curious, as well as suspicious as to why the Karnataka media are not fighting the government openly on this issue. Have they done something, that they should not have done? Or have they been bought out?

    Here is a great opportunity for media to show that they genuinely represent the interest of the people and not get subdued by the political powers.
    Hope they do stand up to their committment.

  3. chidu22 Says:

    What is the remit of Mr Katju?. The letter smacks of condescending attitude of former chief justice however good his intentions seem to appear. The media is not free of blame, they are hand in glove with certain political groups. The investigation no doubt should look in to the porngate but the vested interests in the media should also be probed. Mr Katju has given clean chit to the media in the whole episode, its naive to give examples from western world to absolve media’s role in India which is not completly free. Mr Katju’s remit involves to regulate media not advice or give respectful opinions to Governments.There is judiciary to look after these matters. Mr Katju should stop patronizing Karnataka Government and investigate the media’s role instead so that the media stand for what the founding fathers meant them to be.
    Watching porn in the house is no less a sordid affair than frequent disruptions due to uncivilized behaviour of elected members. Everything should stop in a civilized and mature democracy.

  4. Deepak Says:

    But the question is – have proceedings been started against the media? Some of them were asked some questions and there have been noises about banning private media in the assembly. Other than that no sign of any proceedings being launched. So why is Katju jumping the gun?

  5. Mediapremi Says:

    Dear doc. Shankara prasad, sadly the media in India is not as as saintly as it portrays itself to be. They are thoroughly leftist/anti hindu/anti people/reactionary. For all you know there might have been more MLAs cutting across party lines and may be they showed only one side of it which means they were totally partisan. ( I sincerely hope that Bopaiah said that off the cuff, but would he have?). Media ( all modes) in India is just a foot rug of vested interests. Would TV9 dare to do a documentary on land grabbing activities of the reddy ilk in Bangalore and stop showing features on Telugu movies as if its the gods gift to mankind?

  6. Gouri Satya Says:

    The panel has asked insinuating questions to the media men. People have right to know what their reps do in elected bodies. Media should ignore the panel’s questions and boycott it.

  7. Deepak Says:

    @Mediapremi – Good point, media is extremely biased and pick out one or two parties and individuals and bash them day in and night with a total disregard for objectivity. Let Katju first ensure that media present proper perspective to readers/viewers before he jumps to their support.

    In the porngate case, media did a great job, but blew things out of proportion by going overboard as though the two ministers had carried out a rape in the assembly. Remember Nityananda case, when day in and out we saw his ras-leela videos. Now it seems forensic reports have dubbed the video fake. Why is media not following up on this story? Media is selective and doing a great injustice to readers/viewers by not providing full information.

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