Press Council chief serves notice on Maharashtra CM

Supreme Court judge Markandey KatjuPress Council chairman and former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju today served a show-cause notice on Maharshtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, for failure to act against those responsible for acts of violence against the press and threatened to recommend the dismissal of his government to the President of India.

In his show-cause notice, the Press Council chief asked the chief minister as to why the dismissal of his government should not be sought under article 356 of the Constitution, for having failed to uphold the Constitution by failing to uphold the freedom of the press.

Article 356 deals with provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in the state.

Justice Katju was irked at the CM for having failed to respond to his two previous letters that pointed to rising instances of physical attacks on journalists and asking him to show what action he had taken against the attackers on The Time of India office in Mumbai.

Taking a serious view of the attack on the offices of The Times of India by the supporters of a Shiv Sena MP, On 31 January, Justice Katju had told the state chief minister that such acts of vandalism are ''totally unacceptable'' in a democracy, and had asked Chavan to let him know "at the earliest what action have you taken against the hooligans who committed this outrage. In particular, please inform me whether the delinquents have been arrested and any criminal proceedings launched against them.'' (See: Press Council chief tells Maharashtra CM to crack down on attacks on media)

Failing to elicit a response to his letter, justice Katju raised the ante today, telling the chief minister,"You are, therefore, requested to now show cause why I should not recommend to the President of India to dismiss your state government under Article 356 of the Constitution since your government apparently seems to have failed to uphold the Constitution as it has failed to uphold the freedom of the press under Article 19 (1) (a).  Please give a reply to this letter within three weeks from today after which I will take such action as is fit in the circumstances."

The Press Council chief has taken a serious note of the rising incidents of violence against the media. In his letter today, Justice Katju also pointed out that in the last 10 years "well over 800 journalists were physically attacked", while in the last two and half years alone 213 journalists were attacked by political workers and anti-social elements.

"More shocking was the day light – murder of veteran journalist J Day," justice Katju's letter stated.

He advised the chief minister that freedom of the press was guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitutional and that it was the duty of the state government to maintain law and order in the state.

"But, it seems to me that your government is neither able to maintain law and order nor prevent attacks on journalists, which seriously imperils freedom of the press."

(See: Full text of the letter from Justice Katju to Maharashtra chief minister)