Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court of India’

Nude picture that landed Sports World in trouble

8 February 2014

SPORTSWORLD

The cover image of the now-defunct Sports World magazine, from the Ananda Bazaar Patrika group,  which landed the Calcutta-based media house in a protracted 21-year legal case that ended this week.

The image of tennis star Boris Becker covering the breasts of his then fiancee Barbara Feltus with his hands, had been reproduced from the German magazine Stern along with an accompanying article on the racist abuse they were facing over their relationship.

The intro on the cover clearly said:

“Posing nude, dropping out of tournaments, battling racism in Germany, Boris Becker explains his recent approach to life”

But a Calcutta advocate filed a case of obscenity against Aveek Sarkar, chief editor of ABP, under section 292 of the Indian penal code and indecent representation of women (prohibition) act.

Sarkar moved the Supreme Court in 2004 after the Calcutta decline to interfere.

A two-judge bench ruled this week that a picture or article can be deemed obscene only if it lascivious, appeals to prurient interests and tends to deprave and corrupt those likely to read, see or hear it.

“A picture of a nude/semi-nude woman… cannot per se be called obscene….

“Only those sex-related materials which have a tendency of ‘exciting lustful thoughts’ can be held to be obscene, but the obscenity has to be judged from the point of view of an average person, by applying contemporary community standard(s).

“Applying the community tolerance test, we are not prepared to say such a photograph is suggestive of depraved minds and designed to excite sexual passion… which would depend upon the particular posture and background.

“Further, the photograph, in our view, has no tendency to deprave or corrupt the minds of people in whose hands the magazine… would fall.

““Boris Becker himself puts it, as quoted in the said article: ‘The nude photos were supposed to shock, no doubt about it…. What I am saying with these photos is that an inter-racial relationship is okay’.

“We should, therefore, appreciate the photograph and the article in the light of the message it wants to convey, that is to eradicate the evil of racism and apartheid… and to promote love and marriage between a white-skinned man and a black-skinned woman.”

Image: courtesy The Telegraph

Read the full article: Message rider to ‘smut’

Also read: Poonam Pandey, Sachin Tendulkar & The Telegraph

TOI, Narendra Modi, and balls for Swami Vivekananda 

The newspaper cartoon that offended Christians

Newspaper cartoon that’s offending Israelis

Newspaper cartoon that’s offending Aussies

When ‘Indian Express’ gave ‘The Hindu’ a story

18 June 2013

N. Ram (left) with Shekhar Gupta at a meeting in 2011 with Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan (right)

In October 1989, when The Hindu‘s then associate editor, N. Ram, was stopped in his tracks by his uncle and editor, G. Kasturi, from publishing the third part of an investigation into the Bofors gun deal, Ram found a novel method of getting the story out.

He called a press conference and handed out the story—done in collaboration with the paper’s Geneva correspondent Chitra Subramaniam—to any newspaper interested in carrying it.

In much the same manner, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta has revealed how, in 2006, he found a way of getting out a story related to the elevation of a Delhi high court to the Punjab and Haryana high court, by giving the third part of the story to The Hindu.

***

In a Walk the Talk interview with Gupta on NDTV 24×7 last week, the serial letter-writer Subhash Agarwal revealed how a family dispute led to his becoming a right to information (RTI) activist.

Agarwal’s uncle, Hari Ram, had filed a case against his father in 1991.

Hari Ram’s son-in-law was, at the time, a judge in the Delhi High Court (Justice Arun Kumar). The case was heard by Justice Vijendra Jain. The two judges knew each other well enough for Justice Jain to lend his official residence to be used by the petitioner Hari Ram, for his grand-daughter’s wedding.

This was in violation of one of the elements of the Code of Conduct or “Restatement of Judicial Values”, adopted by the Full court in 1997 which said no judge shall hear and decide a case of his relative or friend.

The wedding invitation card, with the judge’s residence printed on it, became the evidence for Subash Agarwal to approach both the Supreme Court and the President of India in 2005.  The chief information commissioner’s verdict showed the power of RTI.

Justice Vijendra Jain was later made chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court, but his elevation to the Supreme Court as a judge was stalled, despite the then chief justice Y.K. Sabharwal reportedly overruling the recommendation of the President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Shekhar Gupta: So you discovered then the power of RTI which nobody had figured until then?

Subash Agarwal: Yes. The media made me strong. The media highlighted the CIC verdict and that shook the whole of the judiciary.

What happened to these judges then?

After the CIC verdict was published in the media, there was pressure on my uncle from his son-in-law and his associates in the higher judiciary, which also included the Chief Justice of India. And then he had to compromise though we had to pay a price much higher than the value of (the disputed) property at that time.

But the fact also is that one particular judge who later rose to be Chief Justice in a High Court could not ultimately come to the Supreme Court because of your activism.

Right. Mr Kalam held the file of promotion of that judge for elevation to the Supreme Court.

Even though the Chief Justice nearly overruled [the then President], Dr A.P.J. Kalam.

Yes.

You remember that The Indian Express was in the forefront of following that story from Rashtrapati Bhavan. It’s a story I cannot yet tell on camera but we paid gravely for that, but we were willing to pay.

Yes. Your paper has always been the pioneer in highlighting such malpractices.

I made this disclosure public that our third story on that issue, I had to then, with great respect and understanding, give to The Hindu, to Mr N Ram, who played a great editor and published it instead because circumstances were such that the Express could not have carried it…So, this was the first time that an RTI activist actually prevented a judge who had risen to the level of High Court Chief Justice from coming to the Supreme Court.

He had almost reached the Supreme Court.

Coincidentally, in November 2006, the Indian Express‘ new editorial headquarters in the Qutub institutional area was “sealed”  following a Supreme Court judgement.

Ironically, in 2011, The Indian Express and The Hindu were involved in a noisy battle, after N. Ram threatened “defamation proceedings” against the Express for reporting on the internecine war within the Hindu family.

Photograph: courtesy in.com

Read the full interview: Jan Andolan activism has failed’

Also read: Letter-writer secures win against top judge

‘Darkest hour for media since the Emergency?’

13 September 2012

Is it a good thing that the Supreme Court of India has not announced guidelines for media coverage of court cases? Or has it opened the floodgates by introducing a “neturalising device” that underlines the right of the accused to seek postponement of coverage on a case-by-case basis?

And, by introducing a “constitutional principle” has the judiciary appropriated to itself the power of the legislature to make law?

***

The Tribune, Chandigarh: Thoughtless curbs

The Supreme Court judgment that courts can defer media coverage of a case for a short period if there is a danger to an individual’s right to fair trial will curb freedom of the Press, limit the people’s right to know and unnecessarily encourage litigation. Growing complaints of “trial by media” had prompted Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia to initiate a discussion on framing guidelines for court reporting….

There is a growing tendency in the judiciary as well as the executive to curb free speech. The Allahabad High Court banned all media reporting of troop movements after a news report hinted at a coup attempt. The government recently gagged social media sites on the pretext of restoring order. The arrest of a West Bengal professor for circulating a cartoon, the removal of cartoons from school textbooks and the slapping of a sedition case against a cartoonist for disrespecting the national emblem are other instances of executive intolerance of dissent. Vague judgments like the one in the Sahara case will only fuel this tendency.

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Deccan Herald, Bangalore: Gag on media

A fresh threat to the right to free speech and expression, which has been sanctified by the Constitution, has come from an unlikely place, the Supreme Court of India, which has in the past protected and promoted it as a basic entitlement of citizens. Its judgement empowering courts to ban reporting of hearings in cases where there is a perceived chance of interference in free and fair trial amounts to muzzling media freedom. It needs to be opposed like all other assaults on the functioning on the media, which are becoming frequent now.

The court has propounded a  ‘constitutional principle’  which would allow aggrieved parties to seek postponement of the publication of hearings if they are seen to be prejudicial to the administration of justice. But this is disguising an unfair restriction as a constitutional doctrine, creating a devious device to undermine a basic right.

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The Indian Express: Lines of control

This “doctrine of postponement” of reporting is meant to be a preventive measure, rather than a punitive one, and is intended to balance the right of free speech with the right to a fair trial. The courts, the SC said, will evaluate each appeal carefully, guided by considerations of necessity and proportionality. However, the very outlining of the principle, in effect, leaves journalism at the mercy of the high court, rather than being internally regulated with better editorial gatekeeping.

**

The Hindu: Don’t compromise open justice

The Supreme Court’s judgment justifying a temporary ban on the publication of court proceedings in certain cases is likely to have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and the very idea of an open trial…. Indeed, by emphasising the right of an aggrieved person to seek postponement of media coverage of an ongoing case by approaching the appropriate writ court, there is a danger that gag orders may become commonplace. At a minimum, the door has been opened to hundreds and thousands of additional writs — a burden our legal system is unprepared to handle — filed by accused persons with means.

**

Mint: Judgment and some worries

While the court prescribed tests of reasonableness, among others, on deciding issues of postponement, time is of the essence for media and citizens dependent on it for information. It is not far-fetched to presume that during this period of stasis, reporters and editors, can be arm-twisted into submission. The judgement whittles down an already embattled freedom available to the Press. It will add psychological pressure and uncertainty in an already difficult environment.

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Business Standard: Tilting the balance

Tuesday’s judgment has done is to tilt the balance in favour of litigants seeking court interventions — which might well result in the imposition of such gag orders on the media. To that extent, the apex court’s order is prone to misuse…. The legal process (of deferement) is certain to cast an adverse impact on the freedom of the media and undermine the people’s right to know about such cases before the court.

Instead of paving the way for such curbs, it would perhaps make more sense if the courts took upon themselves the responsibility of allowing independent and comprehensive electronic coverage of court cases that both the people and the media can freely access for information or reportage. That would be a more effective way of ensuring that the coverage of court proceedings does not create the risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice or to the fairness of trials.

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The Times of India: Chilling effect

The bench headed by outgoing Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia came up with an alternative approach to maintaining the balance between free speech and fair trial. Drawing upon the contempt law, the apex court devised a judicial power to order the postponement of publication as a last resort. Even this, however, may negatively impact the salutary principle that trials be held in public, as powerful defendants could routinely invoke such postponement orders….  The media is anyway a heterogeneous entity and the right of journalists to cover court proceedings is an essential attribute of a fair trial.

Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

Conflict of interest in ‘Indian Express’ awards?

13 January 2012

The Ramnath Goenka awards for excellence in journalism, instituted by The Indian Express, will be given out by the vice president of India, Hamid Ansari, on Monday, January 16. But the sponsorship of the awards has run into trouble, with a bunch activists and intellectuals raising questions of “conflict of interest”.

Below is their full press release.

***

On January 10 and 11, 2012, half-page advertisements in the Indian Express (IE) newspaper (at least in Delhi edition) announced that the IE excellence in journalism awards would be given out on January 16, 2012 .

The advertisement also said that the main presenting sponsor is the Jaypee Group and among the four associate sponsors was Mahyco Monsanto.

One may recall that Indian Express has been on a campaign mode advocating big dams in general. It has been specifically campaigning against the movements like the Narmada Bachao Andolan. In March and April 2006, the paper specifically ran a campaign against NBA and also against the then Union minister Prof Saifuddin Soz.

In October 2010 the paper ran a campaign for large hydro projects in the north east India when the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh held an open public hearing on these projects in Guwahati and than wrote to the Prime Minister, raising concerns about so many hydro projects being taken up in NE India and the impacts thereof.

Now it is well known that the Jaypee group is India’s largest dam building contractor, largest private sector developer and plans to develop many more including in the North East India, which was the subject of Indian Express campaign in October 2010. Jaypee group is also the contractor for the largest of Narmada Dam, namely Sardar Sarovar Project.

The group is planning to develop the 2700 MW lower Siang and 500 MW Hirong hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh, for example. It may also not be irrelevant to mention here that the Jaypee group has pathetic records in terms of social, environmental and human rights issues in the projects it is involved in.

More recently, in January 2012, India’s market regulator SEBI fined Jaypee group Rs 6 million for illegal practice of insider trading . All these facts are very much relevant for any business group to sponsor awards for excellence in journalism, particularly when the awards are also for “ethics in reporting”.

The Indian Express campaign in October 2010 willy-nilly helped the Jaypee groups’ interests. And now Jaypee is sponsoring the IE Journalism award. Shall we call this conflict of interest or quid pro quo?

Should a media house accept such sponsorship from a group that has directly benefited from the campaign that was run by the media house? And when the business group has such abysmal reputation?

Earlier in January-February 2010, when Jairam Ramesh held a series of public hearings to get a cross section of views on Bt Brinjal, Indian Express had launched a campaign  against Jairam Ramesh and for GM crops. It is clear that the campaign hugely benefited GM crop companies and the biggest among them in the world (Monsanto) has an Indian arm Mahyco Monsanto, which is the biggest GM seed company of India.

Mahyco Monsanto now is one of the sponsors of the Indian Express excellence in journalism awards.

So the same set of questions that arise about relation between Jaypee group and IE also arise for Mahyco Monsanto: Is this conflict of interest or quid pro quo? Is this not intellectual corruption? Should not the lobbyist media groups like Indian Express keep away from getting sponsorships from the organisations that their lobbying helps?

This is particularly true if media group wants to retain any credibility to the effect that it is still speaking in public interest, which we assume they should be.

We would like to clarify that we are not raising any doubts about the genuineness, independence and excellence of the jury or those journalists who may get this award.

Prashant Bhushan, senior Supreme Court lawyer, Delhi
E.A.S. Sarma, former secretary, govt of India, Andhra Pradesh
Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP, Delhi
Shripad Dharmadhikary, manthan adhyayan kendra, MP
Manshi Asher, him dhara, environment research and action collective, HP
Joy KJ, soppecom, Maharashtra
Dr Latha Anantha, river research centre, Kerala
Soumitra Ghosh, NESPON, West Bengal
Hemant Dhyani, Ganga ahvahan, Uttarakhand

This is not the first time media awards have run into trouble.

In November 2011, Mail Today reported that the chief justice of the Supreme Court of India, S.H. Kapadia, had declined to hand out the awards instituted by an unnamed media group.

Earlier last year, media awards instituted by the Press Club of Bombay ran into rough weather when one of the sponsors turned out to be the 2G scam afflicted company, DB Realty.

Hat tap: Mahesh Vijapurkar

***

Also read: Ramanth Goenka: Courage of the 2 o’ clock kind

Prabhu Chawla: No one can destroy Ramnath Goenka‘s paper

How Arun Shourie became editor of The Indian Express

INS: ‘Wage board move will kill most newspapers’

27 October 2011

After dithering for months, the Union cabinet has approved the recommendations of the G.R. Majithia wage board for journalists and other employees of newspapers and news agencies, subject to the final order of the Supreme Court which is hearing petitions from at least three media houses.

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS), which had steadfastly opposed the recommendations, has slammed the government’s move.

Below is the full text of the INS press release.

NEW DELHI: Ashish Bagga, president, the Indian Newspaper Society, has expressed grave apprehension that the decision of the Union Cabinet on the eve of Diwali to accept the recommendations of the Majithia wage boards may lead to the closure of a majority of small and medium newspaper publications across the country as the proposed wage hikes are very high and beyond the capacity of the industry.

He cautioned that even large publications would find it difficult to implement these steep wage hikes.

It is indeed unfortunate that the INS’ request for re-examination of the flawed and one- sided report has not been considered by the Government. A number of petitions challenging the Working Journalist and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1955 and the Majithia Wage Boards recommendations are before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and the decision of the Government would be subject to the final order of the Supreme Court. After the recommendations are published, these petitions may be amended if required, he added.

Bagga said that the Fourth Estate of our vibrant democracy is under threat of losing its well-nurtured fabric of plurality of ownership and the situation created by the Government’s decision will throw up a clear and imminent possibility of consolidating media power in the hands of a few. This coupled with the danger of large scale retrenchments as a consequence of possible closure of a large number of newspaper establishments throughout the country not only pose a great threat to the Fourth Estate but could also lead to colossal job losses in a job-scarce country such as ours.

Also read: INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

POLL: Should newspapers implement wage board?

INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

21 January 2011

Justice G.R. Majithia (left), chairman of the wage boards for working journalists and non-journalists and other newspaper employees, submitting the recommendations to labour secretary P.K. Chaturvedi in New Delhi, on January 1, 2011

The following is the full text of the media release issued by the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) in response to the report submitted by the wage board led by former Supreme Court judge, G.R. Majithia, which recommended a 35 per cent hike in salaries for working journalists, and increased the retirement age to 65 years.

***

“Members of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) have at an emergency meeting held in Mumbai on 20 January 2011 expressed shock and dismay at the report submitted by the chairman of the wage boards for working journalists and other newspaper employees, and said that this, if accepted by the government, would drive several newspaper establishments out of business. They urged the government to reject the report.

“The president of the INS, Kundan R. Vyas, said that the report was severely flawed and utterly one-sided. The wage boards had been improperly constituted, and the report had been prepared in breach of several rules and time-tested procedures. Further, the wage boards had exceeded their remit under the statute by suggesting measures that were manifestly beyond their scope and terms of reference.

“Echoing the sentiments of the large body of newspapers represented at the emergency meeting, Vyas said that the existence of these wage boards was itself out of tune with the times as even the national commission on labour had in 2002 recommended that there was no need for any wage board, statutory or otherwise, for fixing the wages for workers in any industry. The newspaper industry is the only one which has statutory wage boards, and their presence is aimed at financially compromising the ability of establishments to function in a free and fearless manner, Vyas said.

“The present wage boards had submitted their report without prior consultations among members. The boards had ignored settled principles to assess the capacity to pay, and had made no effort to assess the burden on the newspaper industry, Vyas said. Not just this, the wage boards had not even bothered to publish tentative proposals as was done by earlier wage determining authorities, to respect the principles of fair play and natural justice.”

Dishing out news means flouting parking rules

29 September 2010

A line of outdoor broadcast (OB) vans occupy one half of the road outside the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday, 28 September 2010, the day the highest court in the land ruled that the judgement in the Ayodhya title suit could be pronounced without any further delay.

Below, the media scrum sticks the mike out in the face of Mukul Rohatgi, the counsel for the petitioner, whose plea for deferment held up the proceedings.

Photographs: Kuppesh S. Kumar

Also read: When the OB vans came rolling in

Letter-writer secures win against top judge

13 January 2010

Forty-two years ago, textile trader Subhash Chandra Agarwal, then an  engineering student, was miffed with a Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) bus conductor who refused to give him a ticket for a 20 paise journey.

So, he shot off a letter to the editor of the Hindi daily Dainik Hindustan complaining about the misconduct.

“When the letter was published, a DTC van arrived at the college campus. I hid somewhere in the college, fearing the worst. But friends later pulled me out and said the DTC conductor had come to apologise for his misconduct. That’s when I realised the power of taking the initiative and writing.”

That kicked off a habit of writing letters to newspapers—3,699 at last count—and eventually got him into the Guiness Book of Records. When India’s landmark Right to Information (RTI) Act, was passed, Agarwal graduated into filing petitions for records to be made public.

On Tuesday, 12 January 2010, Agarwal’s achieved his biggest victory, when the Delhi High Court ruled that the office of chief justice of the Supreme Court of India came under the purview of RTI, a contention that had been controversially contested by incumbent, K.G. Balakrishnan.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Read Agarwal’s story here: Indian Express; The Times of India; The Hindu; CNN-IBN;

Bolo ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’. Bolo ‘It’s a work of art’

9 September 2008

Not that they are sensitive to these things, but the highest court in India has delivered a stinging slap on the menacing faces of the moral police and thought thugs; the connoisseurs who know exactly what we should see, hear, wear, watch, read, write, paint, feel and think.

Or else.

Maqbool Fida Husain‘s Bharat Mata—a 2004 oil-on-canvas painting of a nude woman whose shape mimics the contours of the map of India, with the names of Indian cities written over her body—has been decreed “a work of art” by the Supreme Court of India.

Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, while refusing to initiate criminal proceedings against Husain for allegedly “hurting public sentiments” and the “national pride of Indians”, said:

“There are so many such subjects, photographs and publications. Does the sentiment of the petitioner get scandalized by the large number of photographs of erotic sculptures which are in circulation? Will you file cases against all of them?

“What about temple structures?

“It (Husain’s work) is art. If you don’t want to see it, don’t see it. There are so many such art forms in temple structures.”

Also read: M.F. HUSAIN: Do you throw out a naughty child?

RITU MENON: In the name of Bhagwan, Allah, God…

Desh ke police kaise ho? Moral police jaise ho!

Just how is this dress an affront to Hindu culture?

‘If a journalist cannot write, then who else will?’

2 July 2008

A two-judge vacation bench of the Supreme Court of India has restrained the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat from arresting sociologist Ashis Nandy, for an opinion piece titled ‘Blame the middle class’ he wrote in The Times of India in January this year.

Justice Altamas Kabir: “There is no ground for harassing a journalist. Let him live in peace. You [Gujarat] are prosecuting this man for his article. These are worst (sic) things happening in this country. If a journalist cannot write then who else will? I have read the article and I find nothing is objectionable. They look for a soft target to catch but not even a single politician or small municipal councillors are caught. He [petitioner] is 71 years old and is a soft target for you…. What is the grievance of the complainant? How does it [article] bother him? Is he a staunch nationalist?”

Justice G.S. Singhvi: “People coming from the land of Mahatma Gandhiji have become so intolerant that they can’t even tolerate an article.”

Cartoon: courtesy Surendra/ The Hindu

Also read: “A DISGRACEFUL ASSAULT ON MEDIA FREEDOM’

‘Intimidation won’t help restore Gujarati asmita’

Cross-posted on churumuri

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