Supreme Court finds self-regulation of TV to be “ineffective”, will frame stringent laws

CJI Chandrachud: “Unless you make the rules stringent no TV channel has no compulsion to comply. For any violation if there is a lakh penalty then what stops them?"
Image Courtesy: The New Indian Express

On August14, the Supreme Court stated that self-regulation of television channel has been found to be inefficient and that the Court will publish instructions aimed at strengthening such regulation of television channel.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and Manoj Misra provided that until and unless the rules of self-regulation are made more stringent, television networks will not be required to follow them. Notably, the Bench was hearing an appeal filed by News Broadcasters Association (NBA) against a Bombay High Court verdict that contained critical observations about the lack of teeth in self-regulation mechanism for TV channels.

“You say TV channels practice self-restraint. I don’t know how many in court would agree with you. Everybody went berserk whether it was a murder etc. You pre-empt the investigation. What is the fine you impose? ₹1 lakh! How much does a channel earn in one day. Unless you make the rules stringent no TV channel has no compulsion to comply. For any violation if there is a lakh penalty then what stops them?” CJI Chandrachud had stated, as reported by LiveLaw.

The bench then said that they will be working on strengthening the self-regulation framework now so that channels are required to be bound by them. The Court, therefore, sought suggestions on the present penalty of ₹1 lakh which is imposed on news channels for violation of NBA guidelines.

“We will strengthen the framework. We have seen the uplinking and downlinking guidelines. We will tweak the Bombay High Court judgment. But we will strengthen the regulations now,” the Court remarked as reported in Bar&Bench.

Need for effective rules of self-regulation:

It is essential to note that during the arguments, Datar kept vehemently pushing for self-regulation of TV channels, maintaining that there cannot and should not be any control by the state.

“We are against what Bombay High Court observed. Please see the downlinking guidelines. If we pass five adverse orders against a channel then their license will not be renewed. High Court says the self-regulatory mechanism is not controlled by the statutory body and the Nariman committee especially sought the same thing. We are aggrieved by the adverse remarks. Like we failed the hopes of citizens etc should not be held against me.”

On this, the Bench had underlined that such self-regulation should be effective and needs to have a deterrent impact on the violators.

“While we appreciate there has to be self-regulation but the self-regulation has to be effective. Having a former Supreme Court judge is not enough. They are also bound by the regulations. How do you give bite to your regulations to make it more effective? The penalty should be a dislodgement fee sorts,” Bar and Bench reported.

On the issue of fine of Rs. 1 lakh, the bench questioned when the same was devised. In response to this, Data provided that it was set in the year 2008.

To this, the CJI replied, “So from last 15 years you kept the (amount) same. The fine should be in proportion with the profiles earned by the channel from that show. The self-regulatory mechanism has to be effective. You virtually pre-empt the criminal investigation. We agree that government interference should not be there…” as reported by Bar&Bench.

Directions of the Court:

The Court proceeded to issue notice on the plea and also sought suggestions on the present penalty which is imposed on news channels for violation of NBA guidelines.

“Let counter affidavit be filed in three weeks. The suggestions to be placed before the court will be also on the aspect of penalty. The penalty of ₹1 lakh was fixed in 2008 and has not been changed since then,” the Court said in its order, as reported by LiveLaw.

In further to this, the Court also directed Senior Counsel Arvind Datar, appearing for the NBA, to seek suggestions from Justices AK Sikri and RV Raveendran on self-regulation of TV channels.

“Mr Datar will seek suggestions from Justices Sikri and Raveendran so that it can be submitted before the court. Centre to file the counter to this,” the bench directed.

As regards self-regulation, the Court said that the same needs to be strengthened and the Court will examine the same as well.



NAJ, DUJ blasts Union Govt Bill(s) on Media

Growing calls for social and economic boycott of Muslims surfacing on social media, plea in the Supreme Court

Times Now Navbharat conducts media trial over Gyanvapi Mosque survey, CJP sends complaint

Report facts, not rumours, do not call for violence: EGI to Indian media outlets

The Shrinking Space for Free Media under Modi rule

SC for freedom of expression: Strikes down ban on Media One

Is the Election Commission vigilant enough in safeguarding India’s election process from the influence of social media?



Related Articles