Tag Archives: Karnataka

Press council chief bats for ‘porngate’ journalists

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,

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 M.L.A.s who have brought disgrace to the House.

Justice Markandey Katju

Chairman, Press Council of India


Porngate: How BJP is turning the screws on TV

It is a reflection of the kind of pressure being mounted on the media these days that the spotlight in the “Karnataka Porngate” scandal—in which BJP ministers and MLAs were caught watching a porn clip on their mobile phones in the legislative assembly—is on the media rather than the erring legislators.

Laiqh Khan and Sudipto Mondal report in The Hindu on the questions posed by a house committee to the editor of a Kannada TV channel, which telecast the clip, resulting in three ministers resigning from the cabinet. The opposition Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) boycotted the committee.

Among the 15 queries:

# “What is the purpose of your organisation when securing entrance into the Assembly?”

# “Instead of recording the proceedings of the Assembly, your journalist forgot his primary duty and recorded indecent and unnecessary things on his camera. Is this correct? What was the intention behind this?”

# “Without the Speaker’s permission, knowing that the visuals were unparliamentary, you have telecast it through the day. Is this right on your part?”

#”Don’t you know that what you have done is a violation of rules 6, 17 and 20 of the Karnataka vidhana soudha press gallery rules?”

#“Showing these kind of visuals could affect the viewers, so don’t you think you are violating the constitutional provision of freedom of expression?”

Also read: How BJP MLA blacked out newspapers, TV channels

Free, frank, fearless? No. Grubby, greedy, gutless.

A significant outcome of the 2009 general elections has been the “outing” of the corruption in the Indian news media. What was earlier, usually, seen as an individual transgression has grown and morphed into an institutional malaise with long-term implications for our democracy which the aam admi is still to recognise.

Most cases of corruption in the media have so far involved the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Enter, Karnataka.

M.V. Rajeev Gowda, son of former assembly speaker M.V. Venkatappa and a Wharton PhD who teaches at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, writes of the “perversion of the media’s role in a democracy” while campaigning for a friend (presumably a Congressman) during the recent polls.

“Instead of being a neutral, dispassionate observer of what’s going on, media houses milked the election to make big bucks. Representatives of media houses approached candidates promising them coverage in exchange for money.

“Of course, I advised my friend not to succumb because I was confident that we could get substantial coverage just by coming out with different media-oriented events and activities. And we did manage to do that. For free!

“But overall, other candidates jumped on the opportunity to get coverage. And there lies the problem. If coverage just involved reporting on the candidate’s vision, track record and activities, it wouldn’t be that much of an issue. It becomes a challenge when readers cannot differentiate between unbiased reportage and paid advertorials.

“This time, the difference between the two was very difficult to discern. One had to carefully look for “Special Feature” or some other tell-tale sign, which is generally not prominent enough for readers to separate fact and opinion from mercenary fiction.

“I remember the time Ramnath Goenka used to boldly declare that the Indian Express was Free, Frank and Fearless. I don’t know about that newspaper, but many others during this election were just Grubby, Greedy, and Gutless.”

Read the entire article: Notes from the Campaign Trail-III

How a pioneering journalist became a horologist


Today is Ugadi, the dawn of the new year for people in the South Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

While eating a pinch of bevu-bella (neem and jaggery) is a symbolic way of kicking off the new year, to signify that bitterness and sweetness should be accepted with equanimity, an equally important tradition on Ugadi day is the reading of the Panchang, the Hindu almanac (in picture,above).

Step forward, Chitra Subramaniam.

As India’s best-known investigative journalist, Chitra Subramaniam (in picture, left) was the one-woman army behind the unravelling of the Bofors scandal for both The Indian Express and The Hindu.

As Chitra Subramaniam-Duella, she has morphed into a horologist who makes watches in the land of watches, Switzerland, in the cradle of watches, Neuchâtel.

With her partner Marc Aeschbacher, a former investment banker, Chitra has bought over a 170-year-old defunct Swiss watch brand and set up BorgeauD SA. Their signature product is the Panchang line, bringing “the best of Swiss watch-making to the service of one of the world’s oldest calendars”.

Id est, the panchang watches marry the modern western concept of time with its traditional eastern calculations based on the sun, moon and the various planets, thus giving time a new dimension. So, apart from telling the normal time, the Panchang watches also display the rahu kala, the 90-minute sequence which occurs at different times on different days of the week, and during which nothing happens except “reflection”.

Developed in consultation with S. Ramadorai, the chief of India’s largest software company, Tata Consultancy Services, Chitra is quoted as saying that she sees a market in Europe for the Panchang line:

“I think people like it because this is a completely new idea and we tell people that they can have an appointment with themselves every day for 90 minutes. They love that. This is the only watch that tells you ‘just wait’.”

Photographs: courtesy Vontikoppal Panchanga Mandira, Land of Lime, Outlook

Does death not count if it ain’t due to terrorism?

A grand total of 80 people died in the serial blasts in Jaipur last Tuesday. A grand total of 134 people have died (so far) in the hooch tragedy in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the weekend. If you take Bangalore and Kolar together, the toll stands at 75.

How do we react to both, as human beings and as media persons, notwithstanding the fact that the former walked into death and the latter bought it, willy-nilly?

A terror attack sends the nation into a furious spell of breast-beating and finger-pointing. Sketches of the culprits, debates on POTA. Pakistan or Bangladesh? OB vans roll in, correspondents file tear-jerkers. NRIs and other pseudo-patriots break into a sweat over “minority appeasement”. Vasundhara Raje finds the time to Walk the Talk with Shekhar Gupta. Compensation of Rs 5 lakh.

Get ready for a candle-light vigil.

A hooch tragedy is just the bad news before the break at dinner time. The hospitals are only slightly better than the slums the victims live/d in. No stories of kids cruelly orphaned by the killer brew. Politicians and officials play a game they have played before—hide and “speak”—with alacrity. Sonia Gandhi won’t be making a visit. Rs 10,000 in compensation.

Is there a preferred way to die, post-9/11?

Does death not count if it isn’t due to terrorism?

If we can’t stop a homegrown hooch tragedy, you bet we will stop international terrorism.

Photograph: A panoramic shot of pristine D.G. Halli, where most of the victims, hailed from (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Does not count if it isn’t due to terrorism-Part I?

All terrorism can be traced to injustice, inequality

Is it an idol (sic)? Is it a statue? Is it a mannequin?

Political photography, like all photography, is about timing. But good photography is no longer easy on the chaotic Indian political landscape where hundreds of (“still”) photographers and (“video”) cameramen now jostle and slug each other out for a slice of the pie.

This picture by Manjunath M.S. of Karnataka Photo News is a very fine exception.

The man jumping the chair at a protest in front of the Governor’s office is B.S. Yediyurappa, former deputy chief minister of the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The man behind him, to his left, with a hand on the chair is Ananth Kumar, a party colleague who is generally assumed to be happy at scuttling Yediyurappa’s career advancement despite his benign public posture. And the man in the white shirt behind Yediyurappa is M.P. Renukacharya, an MLA at the centre of a sexual harassment case, involving a former nurse called Jayalakshmi.

In one frame, as it were, the picture captures everything about Indian politics: the ambition of its leaders, the betrayal by partners, the sniping, backstabbing and backbiting, and of course, the colour, chaos and sleaze.

View a bigger frame at churumuri.com