No sooner did he take over the reins as the Chairman of Press Council of India (PCI), Justice Markandey Katju has initiated a new way of announcing judgments while quoting couplets from Urdu poetry in his various decisions! Thus, the poetry of Firaq Gorakhpuri and Faiz Ahmed Faiz has made its way into the various landmark decisions given by Justice Katju.
Ever since his appointment, Katju have been most vocal on the perception that ‘Media is going overboard’. In a talk show on NDTV recently, he categorically stated that freedom was not absolute in a democracy. While, in the ‘Walk the Talk’ interview with Indian Express’ Shekhar Gupta, Katju cited an example of how paid news had made its way during the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections. He said, “Just three days ago, a senior lady politician told me she was contesting elections and that one leading newspaper came and demanded Rs 18 lakh for favourable coverage and (said) that if you don’t give it, then (you’ll get) adverse coverage.”
Katju seems to be a firm believer of using the ‘danda’, but at the same time he would like to “keep it in reserve”. In an interview with Indian Express, he had said, “I am a totally democratic person. I believe in the method of discussion, consultation, persuasion. If the media has done something wrong, the first attempt should be to resolve the matter in a democratic method and in that connection every two months or so, I am going to hold meetings with all of you. Let’s resolve all the issues by the democratic method. If, despite our best efforts, you prove to be incorrigible, then the danda will be used. I will keep it in reserve.”
Meanwhile, the Election Commission has also cracked the whip recently. On October 20, 2011, in a historic stringent action, EC disqualified Uttar Pradesh MLA Umlesh Yadav from contesting in polls for three years. The reason: the MLA had not included in her official accounts expenditure the amount she had spent on advertisements in two Hindi dailies that had masqueraded as news items.
Now, there are high hopes from the very proactive new Chairman of PCI, as he has proposed to have frequent meetings with editors. And with the Election Commission keeping a close vigil on media’s conduct during elections, for Justice Katju the challenge starts with the upcoming State Assembly Elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand.