Madras High Court
Madras High Court
Litigation News

Special Committee may be constituted to look into news circulation, income tax returns by press if convinced of apprehensions regarding fake press: Madras HC

Meera Emmanuel

A Division Bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday expressed that it is inclined to constitute a special committee to look into circulation of newspapers, magazines etc. to counter false journalists and press persons, if it finds merit in its earlier apprehensions over the same.

To this end, the Court observed that the Committee may be tasked with looking into the income tax remitted and assets possessed by such press entities as well. In this regard, the order passed by the Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and P Velmurugan states,

"As already noted in the earlier order, many persons claiming themselves as press people are said to have been committing crimes and blackmailing business people and Government officials."

“If this Court is convinced, this Court will constitute a special committee to look into the circulation of those magazines as well as newspapers, Income Tax paid by those persons from the date of their first publication and the properties, assets and liabilities possessed by them to know as to whether they are genuine press persons or not and their assets are in consonance with their known source of income.”
Madras High Court

The Court made the observation while adjourning a case, wherein questions regarding the integrity and standards of journalism had cropped up. The main matter concerns a petition filed urging the High Court to direct the police to consider a representation to inquire into a report allegedly conveying false information on a long pending temple idol theft case.

 Justices N Kirubakaran and P Velmurugan
Justices N Kirubakaran and P Velmurugan

When the matter came up before the Court earlier this month, the petitioner’s credentials itself came into question. While querying after the same, the Bench also decided to look into the issue of fake journalists in the State. To this end, it suo motu impleaded the Secretary of the Information and Public Relationship Department of the State Government, the Press Council of India, the Madras Union of Journalists, the Madras Reporters Guild and the Chennai Press Club as respondents.

Further, certain queries regarding details of press organisations, the credentials of journalists in Tamil Nadu as well as details of action taken against fake journalists were also directed to be answered.

On Tuesday, the Court noted that notice was yet to be served on some of the respondents earlier impleaded. Time was also sought to collect the information directed to be gathered by the Court earlier by some of the respondents.

Further, the Court also recorded the submission made by Advocate AP Suryaprakasam for one, S Manikandan who works for SUN Network that he intends to implead himself as a party to assist the Court.

Apart from suo motu impleading Manikandan, the Court directed that the Court registry number impleadment applications by journalist Sandhya Ravishankar and three other journalists filed by their counsel, Gowtham Raman, in order to assist the Court to safeguard genuine press and weed out fake journalists.

The matter has been posted to be taken up next on February 5.

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