The Supreme Court has recently rejected a PIL for pre-broadcast or pre-publication censorship of the media.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar made it clear that pre-broadcast or pre-publication censorship is not the business of the court and that all grievances against objectionable content will be dealt with in accordance with the law of the land after its publication.
Though Pre-censorship as denied by the Supreme Court in the present case is justifiable but there is a need for stricter self-regulation as presently it is largely been ineffective.
Regulating body of other forms of media:
Press Council of India: It is a statutory body to regulate newspapers, journals, magazines and other forms of print media but it cannot penalize them for violation of its guidelines.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has also drawn up guidelines on content of advertisements.
Central Board of Film Certification: For controlling content of movies and television shows etc.
Radio channels have to follow the same Programme and Advertisement Code as followed by All India Radio.
Program and Advertisement Codes for regulating content broadcast on the television, are issued under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
Legal scenario supporting the rejection of Pre-Censorship are:
The Supreme Court relied on Article 19(1) (a) which guarantees Right to freedom of speech and expression and it cannot be seized from anyone simply.
Also Section 123(3) of RPA Act, 1951 declares it corrupt if any person on the ground of his religion, race, caste, community or language influences/refrains any one from voting for a particular candidate.
(The word “his” was included through an amendment in 1961.Hindutva Case.)
In 1995, a three-judge bench ruled that seeking votes in the name of Hindutva was not a corrupt practice as Hindutva was not a religion but a “a way of life”
Current scenario of Regulatory Mechanism: The electronic media in India is mostly self-regulated, so a lot of private channels by themselves have set up the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) of India which issues standards in the nature of guidelines. The NBSA is empowered to warn, admonish, censure, express disapproval and fine the broadcaster a sum up to Rs. 1 lakh for violation of the Code.
The Government also may step in and punish the channels in case of any serious spurious activity simply by taking them off the air for a day or by imposing heavy fines or bans.
However NBSA, ASCI bodies are not so effective and non-unified in real sense. Media is more of a profit making business than just being means of communication.
Conclusions:Looking at the present scenario where the media definitely needs some kind of regulations without impounding the effective communication base some suggestions by the Supreme Court and Parliamentary Committees is given.
The Supreme Court in (Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v. Cricket Association of Bengal) case suggested for creation of an independent broadcasting media authority along the lines of TRAI. In May 2013, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology (2012-2013) recommended that there should be a statutory body to look into content from both print and electronic media.
At least in absence of any separate body there should be some real powers to penalize for violation of the guidelines in order to regulate unnecessary, deceitful and deceptive luring activities in name of news and valid communications.
The media plays a vital role in democracy. So, there is a need to balance its independence and provide an effective regulation at the same time. Considering social media, it is the platform which needs the strongest of all whip as people here are freer to abuse and disdain straightaway which they may not be able to do in person. Owing to our tremendous advent of technology that has given the voice to otherwise non-identifiable masses and eased their availability ubiquitously, the regulations need to be explicitly stricter as a virtual stampede-like situation is far more dangerous than a physical one.
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