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PCI to challenge HC order on troop movement report in SC

April 12, 2012 17:08 IST

Terming as "not correct" the Allahabad high court order that prohibited all media reports related to troop movements, Press Council of India Chairman Justice Markandey Katju on Thursday said that the Council would soon challenge it in the Supreme Court.

"The Press Council of India will be challenging the order of the Allahabad high court in the Supreme Court of India very shortly," the PCI chief, who is a former Supreme Court judge, said in a statement.

Katju said, "With great respect to the high court, I am of the opinion that the order of the high court is not correct."

He said that the Indian Army was not a colonial army but an army of the Indian people who pay taxes for the entire defence budget. Hence, the people of India have a right to know about the army's affairs, unless the information compromises national security.

Katju noted that the media had done an excellent job in exposing the Adarsh and Sukna scams in which senior army officers were involved. They were well within their fundamental right of freedom of the media under Article 19(1)(A) of the Constitution to do so, he said.

The court had directed secretaries in the home affairs and information and broadcasting ministries along with principal secretary (home) of the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that there is no reporting or release of any news item related to the movement of troops.

He said that reporting troop movement near the Indian border or during war time should be prohibited as such information may aid the enemy and cause harm to the armed forces by compromising national security.

"In my opinion, there can be no general prohibition on the reporting of all troop movements," he said.

Katju referred to the reporting of alleged troop movement by the Indian Express in its report published on April 4.

"I am of the opinion that without going into the question of whether the news report was factually correct or not, there could not have been a valid prohibition of such reporting, because the troop movement was not at the Indian border or during war time," he said.

The allegation in the Indian Express report was that there was some convention written or unwritten, that troop movements towards Delhi should not take place without notifying and getting the consent of the government, which was not done, he said.

"The further allegation was that this caused panic among the civil authorities, and the troop movement was abruptly stopped," he added.

The PCI chief said that The Indian Express is not a fly by night newspaper, but a responsible one.

"They (Express) took 11 weeks to complete the investigation of the reported troop movement before deciding to publish the report. Hence, I do not see how they can be faulted," he further added.

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