The Press Council of India was first constituted on 4th July, 1966 as an autonomous, statutory, quasi-judicial body, with Shri Justice J R Mudholkar, then a Judge of the Supreme Court, as Chairman.
First Press Commission
The Press Council of India was set up on the recommendations of the First Press Commission (1954). The commission had felt that high standard of journalism was being maintained by only the few well-established players, while others were prone to publishing sensational news. The commission had opined that only an autonomous body comprising people principally connected with the industry could ensure that no code of journalistic ethics are breached by any player.
The commission identified roles for the proposed commissions. These were:
- Safeguarding the freedom of press
- To maintain high standards of public taste
- To foster due sense of both the rights and responsibilities of citizenship
Composition Of The Press Council
The Press Council Act, 1965 provided for a 25-member strong body out of which 3 were to represent the two houses of Parliament, 13 were to be from amongst the working journalists, of which not less than 6 were to be editors who did not own or carry on the business of management of newspapers and the rest were to be the persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of education and science, law, literature and culture. By an amendment of the Act in 1970, the membership of the Council was raised by one to provide a seat for persons managing the news agencies. The same amendment also made new provisions for the appointments of the chairman and other member of the Council. From 1970 onwards till 1979, the chairman and other members of the council were nominated by a Nominating Committee consisting of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the Chief Justice of India and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
Press Council of India was revamped in 1979 following the enactment of a fresh legislation by Parliament in 1978. Although the composition of the council underwentb few changes, but the objectives of the council remain the same:
- Preserving the freedom of the press
- Maintaining and improving the standards of press in India
The present Council is a body corporate having perpetual succession. It consists of a Chairman and 28 other members. Of the 28 members, 13 represent the working journalists. Of whom 6 are to be editors of newspapers and remaining 7 are to be working journalists other than editors. 6 are to be from among persons who own or carry on the business of management of newspapers. One is to be from among the persons who manage news agencies. Three are to be persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of education and science, law and literature and culture. The remaining five are to Members of Parliament : three from Lok Sabha, and two from Rajya Sabha.
Functions of Press Council Of India
The Press Council Act, 1965, listed the following functions of the Council in furtherance of its objects:
- To help newspapers to maintain their independence
- To build up a code of conduct for newspapers and journalists in accordance with high professional standards
- To ensure on the part of newspapers and journalists the maintenance of high standards of public taste and foster a due sense of both the rights and responsibilities of citizenship
- To encourage the growth of a sense of responsibility and public service among all those engaged in the profession of journalism
- To keep under review any development likely to restrict the supply and dissemination of news of public interest and importance
- To keep under review such cases of assistance received by any newspaper or news agency in India from foreign sources, as are referred to it by the Central Government
- Provided that nothing in this clause shall preclude the Central Government from dealing with any case of assistance received by a newspaper or news agency in India from foreign sources in any other manner it thinks fit
- To promote the establishment of such common service for the supply and dissemination of news to newspapers as may, from time to time, appear to it to be desirable;
- To provide facilities for the proper education and training of persons in the profession of journalism
- To promote a proper functional relationship among all classes of persons engaged in the production or publication of newspapers
- To study developments which may tend towards monopoly or concentration of ownership of newspapers, including a study of the ownership or financial structure of newspapers, and if necessary, to suggest remedies therefore
- To promote technical or other research
The Press Council of India 1978 Act added three new functions for the council:
a) promoting the establishment of such common services for the supply and dissemination of news to newspapers as may, from time to time, appear to it to be desirable;(b) providing facilities for proper education and training of persons in the profession of journalism; and (c) promoting technical or other research
Powers Of The Council
The Press Council can’t force any newspaper, news agency, editor or journalist to reveal the source of any news or information
- The council has power to censure any news which violates the standards of journalistic ethics or public taste
- The council can hold inqury against an editor or a working jpournalist if s/he is found of committing professional misconduct
- Every inquiry held by the Council shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of sections 193 and 228 of the Indian Penal Code
A complaint against a newspaper for any publication the complainant finds objectionable and affecting him personally, or for non-publication of any material, should first be taken up with the editor or other representative of the publication concerned.
If the complaint is not resolved satisfactorily, it may be referred the Press Council of India. The complaint must be specific and in writing and should be filed/lodged within two months of the publication of the impugned news item in case of dailies and weeklies and four months in all other cases, along with the original/photostat copy of the impugned clipping (an English translation if the matter is in a South Asian language). The complainant must state in what manner the publication/non-publication of the matter is objectionable within the meaning of the Press Council Act, 1978, and enclose a copy of the letter to the editor, pointing out why the matter is considered objectionable. The editor’s reply thereto or published rejoinder, if any, may also be attached to it. A declaration stating that the matter is not pending in any court of law is also required to be filed.
If a newspaper or journalist is aggrieved by any action of any authority that may impinge on the freedom of the press, he can also file a complaint with the Council. The aggrieved newspaper or journalist may inform the Council about the possible reason for the action of the authorities against him i.e. if it is as a reprisal measure taken by the authorities due to critical writings or as a result of krisan the policy that may affect the freedom of the press (supporting documents, with English translation if they are in a South Asian language, should be filed). A declaration regarding the non-pendency of the matter in any court of law is also necessary.
On receipt of a complaint made to it or otherwise, if the Council is prima facie satisfied that the matter discloses sufficient ground for inquiry, it issues a show cause notice to the respondents and then considers the matter through its Inquiry Committee on the basis of written and oral evidence tendered before it. If, on inquiry, the Council has reason to believe that the respondent newspaper has violated journalistic norms, the Council keeping in view the gravity of the misconduct committed by the newspaper, warns, admonishes or censures the newspaper or disapproves of the conduct of the editor or the journalist as the case may be. It may also direct the respondent newspaper to publish the contradiction of the complainant or a gist of the Council’s decision in its forthcoming issue.
Similarly, when the Council upholds the complaint of the aggrieved newspaper/journalist the Council directs the concerned government to take appropriate steps to redress the grievance of the complainant. The Council may, if it considers necessary, make such observations, as it may think fit, in any of its decisions or reports, respecting the conduct of any authority, including Government.
Chairmen Of The Council
- Justuce JR Mudhokar (1966-1968)
- Justuce N Rajagopala Ayyangar (1968-1976)
- Justice AN Grover (1979-1985)
- Justice AN Sen (1985-1989)
- Justice RS Sarkaria (1989-1995)
- Justice PB Sawant 1995-2001
- Justice K. Jayachandra Reddy (2001-2005)
- Justice G.N. Ray (2005-2011)
- Justice Markandey Katju (2011-2015)
- Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad (2015 – Till Date)