February 4, 2013
I have been receiving several complaints from several newspapers/journals that the advertisements which were being issued to them by the Central/State Governments or Statutory bodies/Public Sector Undertakings have suddenly been stopped or drastically reduced without issuing show cause notice and without assigning any reason. Sometimes, this is done because of the newspapers/journals publishing material critical of a government or some of its Ministers/Officials.
In my opinion in a democracy the people, including the Press, have a right to criticise the government, and this is a part of the freedom of the speech under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India. Governments, Ministers and Officials must develop tolerance and must have the strength to stand up to criticism. Stopping advertisements or drastically reducing them merely because a critical article has been published, is totally undemocratic and shows pettiness of mind, and is totally unacceptable in a democracy. Revenue from advertisements is the main financial resource of a newspaper/journal, and hence such action can do great harm to it and thus violate press freedom. The Press Council of India will not tolerate any further this kind of behaviour on the part of any government, its Ministers or Officials, and shall take suitable legal action in the matter.
In my opinion, once it has been decided to give advertisements to a newspaper/journal, stopping or reducing it thereafter without giving it an opportunity of hearing amounts to violation of the principle of legitimate expectation and natural justice, and thus violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.
I therefore, direct all Central/State governments including Ministers or Officials and Statutory bodies/Public Sector Undertakings that if it is proposed to stop the advertisements of some newspapers/journals, or curtail them, then a prior show cause
notice must be issued to that newspaper/journals mentioning the charges against it and giving it opportunity of hearing. Thereafter a reasoned order must be passed giving the reasons of such decision, and this must be communicated to the concerned newspaper/journal.
In addition to the above, in the case of advertisements, by the Central Government, Clause 18 of the New Advertisement Policy of the DAVP of 2007 shall be followed in letter and spirit.
(Justice Markandey Katju)
Press Council of India
1) Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
2) Chief Ministers of all the states
3) All State Governments through their Secretary, Information departments
4) All the members of the Press Council of India
5) All the news agencies
6) All the press bodies