The judge at Press Council on India openly admonished 5 national newspapers DECCAN HERALD, THE TIMES OF INDIA, THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS, THE MID-DAY and DAILY NEWS & ANALYSIS (DNA) for their false, malicious and defamatory reports, publishing abusive news about His Divine Holiness Paramahamsa Nithyananda without performing the basic duty of first consulting him and ascertaining his version of the events.
3rd April 2012
In a heartening move which proves that the Indian press still upholds fairness and justice in its operations, National Press Council chairman Hon’ble Justice Sri Markandeya Katju openly admonished 5 national newspapers for publishing abusive news about His Divine Holiness Paramahamsa Nithyananda without performing the basic duty of first consulting him and ascertaining his version of the events.
Hon’ble Justice Katju’s strong admonition came at the sitting of the Press Council in Chennai on 27th February this year, where representatives of Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam had filed complaints against the English newspapers DECCAN HERALD, THE TIMES OF INDIA, THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS, THE MID-DAY and DAILY NEWS & ANALYSIS (DNA) for their false, malicious and defamatory reports about Paramahamsa Nithyananda and the organization during 2010-2011.
The hearing was personally presided over by the National Press Council Chairman Hon’ble Justice Markandey Katju. Admired in legal circles for his pathbreaking judgments, Hon’ble Justice Katju is a former Supreme Court judge, a prolific author and a strong upholder of the authentic Vedic tradition.
Upholding the complaint by Paramahamsa Nithyananda’s representatives as justified, Hon’ble Justice Katju went so far as to ask the erring newspapers how any of them would like it, if their own names were seen in reports carrying such serious charges, without their having been even consulted first! Without further ado, Hon’ble Justice Katju passed all 5 orders in favor of the complainants. Counsel for the complainants, Ms. Daisy, also placed the request that the same order hold good for any future deviations from the law by the same or other members of the press.
Written orders for the same were received on 2nd May 2012.
An extract from the written order
Journalistic ethics require that the newspapers obtain the version of the affected party and post publication afford right to reply to the affected. These complaints regarding publication of defamatory charges against Swami Nithyananda have been countered on the ground of being based on the chargesheets. That being so, the respondents, in view the reports base on the nature of tarnishing the reputation of the accused, ought to have confronted and sought his views. If after seeking his counter-version the newspapers proposed to proceed with the publication, his version should also be published simultaneously. In the present case, the allegations are extremely serious and the version of the Swami or his representative should have been taken into account and published in the newspapers.
Press Council of India
New Delhi – 110 003
File No. 14/527/10-11-PCI
Dated: 3 April 2012
Office Mysore Road,
Bidadi – 562 109,
Smt. Raja Lakshmi,
Office Mysore Road Bidadi – 562 109,
The Directorate General,
Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity, Soochna Bhawan,
Phase- IV, 2nd Floor,
8 CGO Complex,
New Delhi- 110 003.
Information & Public Relations Department,
Government of Karnataka,
O/o the Registrar of News Papers for India,
(Ministry of Information and Broadcasting),
West Block- 8, Wing- 2,
Rama Krishna Puram,
New Delhi- 110 066.
The New Indian Express,
Bangaluru – 560 001,
Subject: – Complaints of Shri Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam, Bangaluru, Karnataka against the editors, The New Indian Express, Karnataka.
I am directed to forward herewith a copy of the decision in the aforesaid matter rendered by the Press Council of India on March 27, 2012 at Lucknow for information/necessary action/compliance.
(K. N. Pokhriyal) Section Officer (Meetings)
The Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam,
These complaints dated 12.1.2011, 22.1.2011, 12.3.2011, 8.1.2011, and 12.3.2011 have been filed by the Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam, Bengaluru against various newspapers namely The New Indian Express, Mid- Day, Daily News & Analysis, Deccan Herald, Bengaluru, Karnataka and Dainik Jagran, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh for publication of series of false and malicious news items under the captions as follows:
The New Indian Express
S.No. Caption Dated
S.No. Captions Dated
Daily News & Analysis
S.No. Captions Dated
S.No. Captions Dated
The complainant on behalf of The Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam has alleged that the respondent newspapers have been publishing false and malicious allegations related to the recent charge sheet against Nithyananda. The complainant has stated that the charge sheet is not a document of public speculation and only presents the opinion of the police and cannot be taken as the actual facts of the case. Filing of the charge sheet is only a presentation of charges and is not a proof of guilt, as is being projected in the media, nor does it amount to the conviction of the accused, added the complainant. The complainant has submitted that Paramahamsa Nithyananda is being treated in the media as if ‘guilty until proven innocent’ and the respondent has been publishing number of false and highly defamatory articles that are being published continuously in his newspaper with no concern either for the truth, of for journalistic responsibilities. The complainant added that same articles have also appeared in the online edition of the newspaper, causing further widespread damage to the reputation of Nithyananda and the organization. The complainant has alleged that the same reporter is writing all these offensive articles and they have reason to suspect that he is receiving some monetary benefit for the same. The complainant vide legal notice dated 12.12.2010 drew the attention of the respondent editor, but the newspaper management ignored the same and defamatory articles are continuing to be published till date.
In response to the Council’s Show Cause Notice dated 12.5.2011 the Counsel of the respondent Mid-Day vide his written statement dated 17.6.2011 has denied the allegations levelled by the complainant and submitted that the article published are based on true facts and information received from authentic sources and they are neither baseless, malicious or false. The respondent further stated that the contents of the articles published are not with an Intention to defame Swami Nithyananda. The articles purely based on proper facts and only a summary of the contents of the Charge Sheet filed by investigating authorities. The respondent submitted that they have no vested interest In publishing any article which will tarnish the reputation of the Ashram and Swami Nithyananda.
In response to the Council’s Show Cause Notice dated 31.5.2011 the respondent editor Dainik Jagran, Kanpur in his written statement dated20.1.2012 stated that each and every allegation, averments, contentions and submissions made by the complainant as being false, frivolous, concocted, incorrect and wrong. The respondent submitted that the complaint is not maintainable as it is not filed by a person aggrieved but it is a sponsored complaint filed for some oblique purposes. The respondent submitted that he has taken all the pre- publication precautions before publishing the news item. He further submitted that the facts published in the news item in question are admittedly part of the charge sheet filed by the investigating agency and its correctness is not disputed by the complainant. The respondent further stated that he has no grudge or malice against the complainant hence the allegations of the complainant are baseless and frivolous. He concluded that there is no denial of the facts stated in the news article by the complainant.
The Inquiry Committee took up the matters for hearing on 27/2/2012 at Chennai. As the complainant has filed as many as five complaints against the New Indian Express Mid-Day, Deccan Herald, Daily News Analysis and Dainik Jagran, the Inquiry Committee heard the matters collectively contested by complainant through Counsel Ms. Nirmala and Shri Deewakar for New Indian Express. None of other respondents were present. The complainant counsel submitted that the newspapers have published defamatory news items/reports against Swamiji without any proof. Shri Deewakar appearing for the New Indian
Express defended the publication and submitted that the news published by the newspapers were based on the contents of the charge sheet.
The Inquiry Committee considered the all five complaints. On the issue of locus it referred to norm 3(xiv) which reads as below:
“in cases involving personal allegations/criticism, only the concerned person enjoying the locus standi can move the plaint or claim right to reply. However a representative organization of persons attached to an organization or a sect/group has the locus standi to move complaints against a publication directly cirticising the conduct of a leader.”
The complainants locus to move the complaint was thus not open to question. On merits at the very outset it opined that correctness or otherwise of the contents of a charge sheet are subject to judicial decision thereon and may not be taken as sacrosanct till the accused is held guilty following the due process of law. Thus journalistic ethics require that the newspapers obtain the version of the affected party and post publication afford right to reply to the affected. These complaints regarding publication of defamatory charges against Swami Nithyanand have been countered on the ground of being based on the charge sheets. That being so, the respondents, in view the reports base on the nature of tarnishing the reputation of the accused ought to have confronted and sought his views. If after seeking his counter version the newspapers proposed to proceed with the publication his versions should also be published simultaneously. In the present case, the allegations are extremely serious and the version of the Swami or his representative should have been taken into account and published in the newspapers. Therefore, without going into the merits of the allegations against the accused the Inquiry Committee hold that the one sided reporting and absence of counter versions warrant Censure of the respondents for the impugned publication. It reports thus to the Council.
The Press Council on consideration of the records of the case and report of the Inquiry Committee accepts the reasons and findings of the Committee and decides to Censure the five respondents i.e. (i) the New Indian Express; (ii) Mid- Day; (iii) Daily News and Analysis; (iv) Deccan Herald, Bengaluru and (v) Dainik Jagran, Kanpur under the provisions of secton 14(1) of the Press Council Act, 1978.
27 MAR 2012
Press Council of India