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Press Council to challenge HC order in SC: Katju

New Delhi: Terming as "not correct" the Allahabad High Court order which prohibited all media reports related to troop movements, Press Council of India (PCI) chairman Justice Markandey Katju today 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 that "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 the army of the Indian people who pay the taxes for the entire defence budget. Hence, the people of India have a right to know about Army affairs, except where they compromise national security.

Katju noted that the media has done an excellent job in exposing the Adarsh and Sukna scams in which senior army officers were involved and they were well within their fundamental right of freedom of the media under Article 19(1)(A) of the Constitution to do so. The court had directed Secretaries in the Home Affairs and I & B ministries along with Principal Secretary (Home) of the UP Government to ensure that there is no reporting or release of any news item related to movement of troops.

He said that reporing troop movement near the Indian border or during war time should be prohibited as that may aid the enemy and cause harm to the armed forces by compromising national security. "However, in my opinion there can be no general prohibition of 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 whether the news reporting 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 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 investigation before deciding to publish the report. Hence I do not see how they can be faulted," he further added.

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