According to an RTI reply, during 2008-09 to 2012-13, the Press Council closed majority of complaints it received against paid news and misleading ads due to non-pursuance and settlement
The Press Council of India has been closing complaints of “paid news” citing non-pursuance by complainants most of the time while some cases of misleading advertisement were closed after settlement, reveals a reply received under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had filed the application. He said, “Both these situations of case-closure because of “non-pursuance” or ‘settlement’ can be the result of still dangerous practice of unethical blackmail—compromise between the complainant and the affected media—body. The Press Council must not close cases once filed with it because of non-pursuance or settlement. Blackmailers unnecessarily harassing media should be booked under some criminal offence in case their complaints are found baseless and frivolous.”
According to the RTI reply, during the last general elections, the Press Council received 17 complaints of paid news from various people and organisations. Out of this, the Council closed nine complaints citing non-pursuance. For the rest, the Council issued warnings to the publications for publishing misleading news, stories and advertisement during 2009-10.
The next year, the Council received just two complaints about paid news. While one complaint was closed citing “outside charter”, the other was closed due to non-pursuance during 2010-11.
Again during 2011-12 the number of complaints increased to 11, out of which just one was closed citing non-pursuance. While one complaint was closed by the Council citing matter sub-judice, in the other nine complaints, it issued mere warnings to the erring publications.
For 2012-13, the Council received nine complaints, out of which five were closed due to non-pursuance, while one was closed citing time bar. Two complaints are still under consideration of the Council.
Similar is the case with misleading advertisements. Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, the Press Council received 38 complaints against alleged misleading ads. In majority of the cases, the Council closed the complaint on non-pursuance, settlement and insufficient ground for an inquiry.
According to Mr Agrawal, the Press Council has not taken cognizance of a media report regarding a stay sought by Om Prakash Chautala, the then chief minister of Haryana, on a TV exposé of the teachers recruitment scam.
“While the Press Council chairperson is dragging himself into jobs not assigned to him like launching pardon-campaigns for selected individuals, the RTI response reveals that the Council has failed in its duty to take cognizance of dragging the media in unnecessarily legal-tangle depriving TV viewers from telecast of eye-opener true episode of “Teachers Recruitment Scam” in Haryana during the regime of Om Prakash Chautala as chief minister,” Mr Agrawal said.
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For better enforcement of traffic violations, the High Powered Committee has given the Transport Department and Transport Commissioner two years’ time to implement and enforce the suggestions given by it as well as the Sundar Committee Report
A High Powered Committee (HPC) set up by the home ministry following directions from the Bombay High Court has suggested a system of penalty points and graded punishment to ensure minimum traffic violations. The Department of Transport and the Transport Commissioner have been assigned to ensure that all the recommendations by the HPC are implemented within two years.
The National Informatics Center is reportedly considering these viewpoints as well as the points raised by the Sundar Committee report. The Sundar Committee report had made several suggestions, most notably creation of dedicated highway police as well as formation of committees and advisories as well as autonomy to states to their own traffic management boards and such. It is also being suggested that road space be optimized to ensure steady traffic flow, as lack of space is one of the biggest constraints of Mumbai and have made life difficult.
Encroachment is another aspect that is being looked at very seriously and the police have already taken some action. The report noted, “Encroachment of pavements and carriageways by people and vehicles in Mumbai is one of the biggest concerns and has adversely impacted traffic conditions to a great extent.” According to the committee report, the encroachment on 20 roads has been removed in first phase, while 125 roads are taken up in Phase-II.
Illegal parking is another annoying thing that takes up road space. Often, you would see bikes parked outside restaurants undertaking home delivery, even though the space does not belong to them. The HPC noted in its report, “Additionally due to lack of effective parking policy and enforcement, it gives the citizens a feeling that parking is virtually free on the roads during the day and night.”
Besides enforcement of rules, there were other considerations such as public space, public transportation (including Mumbai rail network and BEST bus system) and so on which do not fall within the police jurisdiction. Therefore, the HPC was created to ensure stakeholders collaborate and work together.
While it is not known in what exact form penalty points and gradation of punishment will look like, it will hopefully lead to less traffic problems due to more clarity, because at the moment, there is no clear system of punishment for violations.
Earlier, a public interest litigation was initiated by the Bombay Bar Association against the State of Maharashtra & others to improve the traffic situation in and around Mumbai to make life for her citizens easier since the matter was too complex to be handled by the police force alone. Over the past few years, Mumbai’s public infrastructure, most notably roads and commute has gone from bad to worse. Increases in bus fares have already taken a toll on the marginal fringe workers.