Tuesday 4 December 2012

The Leveson Enquiry Report and the Indian Media


The Leveson report on the British press should jolt the Indian media into acting against ills such as paid news, and focus on being an agent of progressive social change
After an inquiry lasting a year, Lord Justice Leveson has delivered a damning verdict on the decades of “outrageous” behaviour by the media. If anything, this verdict would apply in even greater force to a large section (not all) of the Indian media which has since long been shamelessly indulging in malpractices — paid news, the Radia tapes, and even blackmail and extortion.
The Zee exposure is only the tip of an iceberg. Lord Justice Leveson in his report has said that malpractices in the media are not aberrations but common practices. This comment applies equally to a large section of the Indian media, though it must also be said that there are many upright and excellent journalists in India.
Lord Justice Leveson has said that: a section of the media acted as if its own ethical code simply did not exist; it “wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people”; there has been “reckless disregard for accuracy.”


Everyone knows that paid news is rampant in India, but when the two-member committee (of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and K. Sreenivas Reddy) set up by the Press Council submitted a damning 72-page report, it was shamelessly sought to be suppressed at the instance of some members of the Press Council (before I became its Chairman). The first thing I did on becoming Chairman was to place the report on the Press Council’s website.
Madhu Kishwar, a senior journalist, said on Rajya Sabha TV that many media people can be bribed and manipulated. The huge salaries which many top media people get (some are said to get packages worth several crores annually, often linked with TRP ratings) enable such media people to lead fancy lifestyles with huge cars, houses and bank balances, thereby making many of them (not all) docile hirelings of their corporate masters.


Lord Justice Leveson has called for the setting up of an independent statutory regulator of the media, which is precisely what I have been pleading for since long. However I have clarified that: 

1. I want regulation, not control, of the media, the difference between the two being that whereas in control there is no freedom, in regulation there is freedom but subject to reasonable restrictions in the public interest. 

2. This regulation should not be by the government or any individual but by an independent statutory authority (which can be called the Media Council) and 

3. Most of the members of the proposed Media Council (which should have representatives from the broadcast media also on it) should be mediapersons, not appointed by the government but elected by media organisations.
This media council should have punitive powers including the power to suspend licences and impose fines, but such punishment should be given by the majority decision of the Media Council, and not by the chairman alone. This is really a form of self-regulation and judgment by one’s peers (as is done by the Bar Council).
Some mediapersons have quoted Jefferson who said that if he had to choose between a government without a free press or a free press without a government, he would choose the latter. While I have great respect for Jefferson, I regret I cannot accept this statement, for two reasons. First, if there is no government there would be anarchy, and a free press cannot exist in an anarchy.
Second, in a democracy, the media must help people in their struggle for a better life. Therefore, freedom of the media by itself has no value. It has value if it helps people secure better lives. If the media uses its freedom to perpetuate poverty and other social evils like casteism, communalism and superstitions by propagating backward ideas, should we permit such freedom? Certainly not. Therefore, freedom of the media is a good thing only if it helps to raise the standard of living of the masses, and this it can do by spreading rational and scientific ideas and combating backward and feudal ideas like casteism and communalism.


Historically, the media arose in western Europe as an organ of the people against feudal oppression in the 17th and 18th centuries. At that time, all the organs of power were in the hands of feudal authorities (kings, aristocrats, etc). Hence the people had to create new organs which could represent their interests. The media (which was then only the print media) was a powerful organ created by the people. In Europe and America it represented the voice of the future, in contrast to the feudal organs which wanted to preserve the status quo. Everyone knows of the great role played by Voltaire, Rousseau, Thomas Paine, John Wilkes and Junius who fought against feudal oppression, and helped greatly in the transformation of feudal Europe to modern Europe.
In my opinion, the Indian media should also play such a role. Today the Indian people are suffering terribly from massive poverty, unemployment, skyrocketing prices, an absence of health care and good education for the masses. The Indian media should help our country abolish these great evils, the way the European media did. Only then will it win the respect of the people.
Some people have misunderstood me and thought that I wish to gag or muzzle the media at the behest of the government. The truth is that I have always been fighting for media freedom, as my track record shows. However, I have also been saying that the media must act responsibly, particularly in a poor country like India.
No freedom can be absolute. Man is a social being, as Aristotle said. Hence freedom cannot go to the extent of damaging society, because in turn, we will be damaging ourselves.


  1. Sir, Justice Leveson's report and if someone reads the synopsis here one should be able to gauge, where we are heading ahead. As ramachandra guha said it rightly, India is experiencing 5 revolutions at the same time. Very nice topic to touch sir. Looking forward to read them more..

  2. sir, Regulation of media is urgency. Today media influences peoples view. Media's view has become people's view which is not correct so far.

  3. We are passing through paid news, corporate treaties, and recent Zee exposure, etc are pathological form of incidents in Indian society. But still over emphasizing on self regulation would lead to grave injustice to the common citizen. As Justice Katju, rightly pointed out, need of the hour is regulation not control. Media is the parliament of citizens, where it has to address needs of destitute and marginalized populace. Looking forward active intervention of civil society engagement.

  4. Justice Katju,

    I laud your patience and persistence. You have been doing great service in your capacity as PCI chief, as you did earlier in your role as judge of the Supreme Court. Honestly, what you have written in this article, is not debatable. It sounds very reasonable and a positive move towards upliftment of our people. Wish the govt. acts based on your suggestions.

  5. Your logic has always been straight , your grace . PCI should be given as much power as Bar council of India but will government will do that soon ?
    What about the ability of media to manipulate sections of society into portraying idea of regulation into that of arbitrary control of media ? there by leading to public outcry and sincerely since many politicians are more concerned about vote banks and funding (which is usually from corporate side) will they allow for passing of such resolution in parliament ?

    I do think its good for not only society but government to delegate such powers to Press council of India . I remain a realist hence I pointed out some of the bars present in such a thoughtful idea . Justice katju you have done a wonderful job both as a Supreme court judge and Press council Chairman , its clearly noteworthy of actions you took and responses you gave . India needs such critical minds .

  6. It is true that Press is a powerful organ in a democratic country to correct the wrongs of Police and Government and save the poor and honest persons QUICKLY AND EASILY especially because the judicial remedy is pathetically time-consuming,bristles with technicalities of law and beyond the reach of poor persons. Press can do a GREAT service to the poor and honest persons in society in matters of general public importance BY HIGHLIGHTING THE WRONGS OF POLICE AND GOVERNMENT MACHINERY.
    M Sivathanu

  7. Hats off to you justice katju sir.Today india needs people like you.
    Press is supposed to be the fourth pillar of democracy but they have forgotten it. They have also forgotten what a great role media has played in india's freedom fight.Now its time for indian media, specially electronic media(some how print media has maintained their dignity) to work in puplic interest not in what puplic is interested in.Instead of creating awareness about many social issue like casteism,which is deeply rooted in our social system, poeverty, education, gender gap etc other social issue,media(electronic) is busy in showing paid news, making news sensational.This is demand of the hour to regulate, not control the media.Any initiative taken by media to self regulate should be welcomed.

    1. Hi,
      I would imagine, correct me if I am wrong, no other newspapers other than 'The Hindu' follow the principles laid down by the press council, with reporters strictly adhering to ethics in journalism. One may call their views conservative, but it is a publication one can trust and stands head and shoulder above most others. This is not an all-India perspective, as I am confined to information in South and it is likely that there might be some others as well elsewhere. I shall be interested to know more on this please?.

    2. Hi,
      sir, you are 100% correct no other news paper except "The Hindu" follow the ethics of journalism. There are few papers are there in north but they are far behind the benchmark "The Hindu" has set.Other papers and electronic media are busy in printing and showing "spicy" and obscene news,but you will not find even a single picture or news of that kind in The Hindu.

    3. Hi,I agree Other than "The Hindu", most of the newspapers are becoming cinematic and lifestyle magazines, narrowly focusing on specific items

  8. Independent india has not seen any "Satya Harishchandra" though ancient India has preached it. All 4 pillars have encouraged / if not discouraged, "Rabhan" (Ravan) and his modus operandi in some or the other form with more or less quantum. Yatha Raja tatha praja : As the ruler , so are its subjects. Moghul emperors for @ 800 years and British rulers for @ 200 years have conditioned Indian's minds to "Whips". Would media or its people be deconditioned for good behaviour in just @ 70 years?
    India has experienced any and all "Cracy" other than Democracy which explicitly and implicitly means "self regulation/control".
    I hope and pray God to give more and more power to people like Justice Katju to streamline this country. India needs atleast 545 Justice Katjus.

  9. People like Justice Katju, Justice Santosh Hegde are working, performing, achieving even after retirement. How many in job people are working, performing, achieving remains a question.

  10. Respected Justice Katju, from my personal point of view there is an urgent and important need of laying down "Model code of conduct" for teachers at large and teachers in schools upto SSC in particular in India. pertaining to this news : http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/school-boy-dies-after-being-beaten-up-by-teachers/article4166598.ece
    A set of crimes/offences/ errors/ mistakes/ blunders/ recidivist acts, which are at maximum to be cognizable by any and all teachers need to be formed and corresponding maximum punishments which any and all teachers can order / implement also needs to be enlisted and implemented in any and all schools.
    RTE Right to education bigger picture will be a failure unless maximum and minimum punishments are "addressed, defined, implemented, and periodically reviewed".
    I apologise, if this forum is not appropriate to raise a humble request to you.
    People in power like you must "prevent" such recurrences in independent India.
    Santosh Kagvate

  11. Respected Sir,
    I'm sorry to write in piece meal method but need of the hour to formulate such lists of offences and corresponding list of maximum punishments would structure the degrading trend of Guru-Shishya parampara, root cause of which lies in practice of "nuclear families" with mostly one or at maximum two sons or daughters.
    "Spare a rod and spoil the child" an anonymous quote has been realised in almost all such families. Mother and father are averting their roles to dicipline son or daughter and there is increasing load on teachers to handle undisciplined pupil in schools. Guru-Shishya tradition is no more sacrosanct in India though degree or percentage of degradation of such relationship is less. The broader trend is negative. I hope and believe you will look into the spirit of my posts, as well along with brief and upto the point explicit meaning of words.

    Santosh Kagvate

  12. Respected and Hon. Justice Katju,

    1. I do not know why you missed the politicos from your angle? The unholy nexus between politicians-corporate-media is rampant in India. Not a single news tv channel, barring a few, report news - they pass on political parties information, give opinion, try to swing opinions with wrongly timed data or data which they think is correct.

    2. I do not believe (and so will millions of Indian) that our judiciary is efficient. Now that you want to regulate, but if you do, how it is going to be addressed by the courts. We constantly say judiciary is over burdened, takes frivolous cases and gets lost in the cause. With additional new cases coming in (and there will be many), how they are going to be address. Our judiciary system is so slow that by the time verdict is passed, half of productive lifetime is gone.

    3. What is the proposal in detail? How it will be done? Which model is to be followed? It is well known now that how the media channels are funded by many corporate and how corporate-politics nexus exist in India? Barring a few sectors, it is a highly corrupt system with vested interests reaching to the top. Is it going to be discussed/debated on how the details will be formalized?

    Will be glad if you can share on it.

    4. What are the changes in laws (do not know if you have any proposals on it) that you have? Effectively in India, without harsh penalties it is meaning to pass laws as well. And if laws are needed, how come with current political system it will be passed? As per the IB ministry, time and again they have said media is best kept independent from all.

    5. Paid news is rampant in India. Paid reports and swing reports are rampant in India. Is there any whistle blower policy you have (Govt. is yet to act on that bill). Today media is extremely powerful without any accountability. Without having a whistle blower guideline, who will be reporting against the media unless you are a big steel or power tycoon or a big shot in a political party?

    6. When you say electronic media does it cover the Facebook, Twitter, Tablets, Smart Phones contents as well or will it be part of the new IT Act with highly controversial and draconian ones like 66A?

    7. Above all, how they are going to be enforced. In India, we do not have any dearth of laws, we miserably fail in its implementations.

    There are a lot of other questions which are there, but would be glad to know your opinion or that of PCI (at its website), which are unknown yet.

    Thank you and hope that we can more details on it in your subsequent post.

    The Warrior for Justice

  13. Dear Sir,

    While I agree with your resolute and courageous advocacy of the need for reform in the media, I do not think that media has only an "instrumental value" as you have repeatedly opined. The freedom of press, being a facet of freedom of speech and expression, has an intrinsic value and it is an end in itself. There will always be media focus on celebrities and fashion shows as in a "marketised democracy" there is demand for such kind of "frivolous" news. Rather than ask the existing media, which is run by "for-profit" corporates, it is important that enlightened individuals arrange resources and start newspapers/ media companies/ channels which focus on social issues of relevance. I do not think this is a difficult task if one has the will and it is my submission that right minded people like you should take the lead in this matter. In the days of national struggle, there are numerous examples of leaders starting newspapers which dealt with national problems and issues. I see no reason why that cannot be done today by enlightened individuals.


  14. Dear Sir,
    I completely agree with you but I doubt that the present government will accept your views or implement it. I think your views are more likely to be accepted and implemented if Aam Aadmi Party comes into power. Until then I am not even sure if we could just hope for the best!

  15. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/gujarat-assembly-elections-2012-20-of-poll-candidates-have-criminal-record-says-gujarat-election-watch-report/articleshow/17537142.cms

    Respected Mr. Katju, we at least I wish to read your wisdom, experience, study, analysis, Root cause and practical remedy on this subject. In Bihar there are such 141 out of 243 Law makers. Why even RSS failed to contain BJP or Pramod Mahajan like attitudes?

  16. Sir,
    You are absolutely correct in voicing your views on the malpractices in the electronic/ print media. The truth remains that public school educated reporters with heavy accent are far from truth and reality, they just follow the scoop given to them without realizing or caring for the consequences of their scoop. The plight of the masses is not their concern at all. How to make a news sensational is their only aim.


    1. Legal notice sent to Justice Katju for insulting Indians ,come to my facebook account and reply ,won't come to see this article again http://www.bhaskar.com/article/UP-OTH-legal-notice-sent-to-justice-katju-4105956-NOR.html?seq=1&HT5= लखनऊ. भारतीयों को 'इडियट' कहने पर प्रेस काउंसिल ऑफ इंडिया (पीसीआई) के चेयरमैन जस्टिस मार्कंडेय काटजू को लखनऊ निवासी भाई-बहनों ने लीगल नोटिस भेजा है। उन्‍होंने कहा है कि यदि जस्टिस काटजू अपने बयान के लिए माफी नहीं मांगते हैं तो वो कोर्ट का दरवाजा खटखटाएंगे।

      जानकारी के मुताबिक लखनऊ के रहने वाले तनया ठाकुर और आदित्य ठाकुर ने जस्टिस मार्कंडेय काटजू को उनके द्वारा 90 प्रतिशत भारतीयों को मूर्ख कहे जाने के खिलाफ कानूनी नोटिस भेजा है। दोनों यूपी काडर के आईपीएस अमिताभ ठाकुर और समाज सेवी नूतन ठाकुर के बच्चे हैं। जहां तनया बीए एलएलबी प्रथम वर्ष में पढ़ रही है, वहीं आदित्य कक्षा 11 के छात्र हैं।

      दोनों बच्चों के अनुसार जस्टिक काटजू जैसे सम्मानित एवं जिम्मेदार पदधारक व्यक्ति द्वारा ऐसी बात कहे जाने से भारत की मर्यादा का उल्लंघन होता है तथा विदेश में भारत व भारतियो के प्रति गलत धरना बनाने की संभावना बढ़ जाती है। उन्होंने जस्टिक काटजू के बयान पर खेद और दुःख व्यक्त करते हुए लिखा कि वे चाहते है जस्टिस मार्कंडेय काटजू क्षमा प्रर्थना करे अन्यथा वे 30 दिन बाद न्यायालय का दरवाजा खटखटाएंगे।

      सुप्रीम कोर्ट के जस्टिस रहे काटजू ने शनिवार को एक सेमिनार में कहा, 'मैं कहता हूं 90 फीसदी भारतीय इडियट हैं। आप लोगों के पास दिमाग नहीं है। आप लोगों को कोई भी बेवकूफ बना सकता है। 2000 रुपए जैसी मामूली रकम के लिए दिल्ली में सांप्रदायिक दंगे भड़काए जा सकते हैं। इसके लिए बस इतना करना होगा कि किसी धर्मस्थल के प्रति असम्मान दिखाना होगा। बस लोग लडऩा शुरू कर देंगे। आप पागलों की तरह लडऩा शुरू कर देंगे बिना यह सोचे कि कोई एजेंट इसके पीछे काम कर रहा है।'

  17. Chandigarh



    (Dear?) Mr. Markanday Katju

    Can an overtly judgmental judge do justice to his profession? By the ways that you employ one can easily comprehend a straightforward ‘No’. Let me assure you that you have been grossly mistaken in your attempted modesty to perceive that you wish to be uncontroversial. Ever since you have been on that chair of PTI, there’s hardly a day when you don’t want to make vacuous news of yourself. It would not be an exaggeration to decipher these are your personal plans to glorify yourself. There’s a valid reason to believe so. Your articles manifest articulately that your have considered your self-righteousness and sense of morality born from it, to be worthy of a larger audience than what you could muster in the corridors of your courtrooms. You’re undoing all the utter neglect you might have had to bear for your feebleminded views that are now shoved down our throats every morning. You fall short of the one book wonder author Arundhati Roy in this regard. She used her Booker to speak against everything and everyone that the majority sympathised with, be it Mandela, Gandhi, Kashmir, Naxals, Nuclear tests or human rights for terrorists. You only fall one step short in that while she criticizes everything including her country; you criticize everything excluding your perceived interests of the country. The latest in the series is your calling ‘90%’ of Indians ‘idiots’. The word itself is so debased and unworthy of any intellectual attention, but the newspapers are obliged to get another perspective, gibberish as it might be. I therefore will get down to your level to present my arguments. Since you are so fond of quotes, here’s a colloquial one:

    लातों के भूत बातों से नहीं मानते


    The first charge that you make to justify your appellation is how Phulan Devi despite being a known dacoit-cum-murderer was elected to Parliament due to the backward caste votes. If it is so then the real idiots are the makers of our constitution who have kept the provision for dacoits, rapists, murderers, plunderers, thieves and goondas to be elected to the parliament despite being convicted. Every intellectual who swore by that constitution is also an idiot as in the same definition are you. Let me remind you of a popular saying:

    जिनके खुद के घर शीशे के होते हैं, वो दूसरों के घरों पे पत्थर नहीं मारते।

    Yes Mr Katju, if there is one uncomfortable truth it belongs to conceited individuals like you, who think of themselves as a different class. I would wait for the article where you spurt out this ‘satyam apriyam’ in as cheap words as you used to describe the backward class, where you will dare to accord such appellations to the makers of our constitution, the insensitive dynastic monarchs of the ruling government and our handicapped opposition, doing everything to ensure that even after fifty years class conscious ‘idiots’ like you get enough reasons to call backward classes ‘idiots’, colonised as your generation is. May I remind you that if backward class people were idiots they could not have possibly thought about their representation in the parliament through a leader they felt defended their rights, a leader they could identify with, a leader who’s tyranny was more dear to them than the snobbishness of Brahmins or of people like you and the ever ignorant central government. With the resources they had and intellect they could muster despite, forget about education, not a morsel of food entering their mouths timely, their decision was far mature. Lets apply theory of relativity, and you’ll find that your hypocrisy has staged itself in flying colours through this useless piece of criticism that you wrote, and its people like you or your 10% club who are the real ‘idiots’. Its ironical however, that you are so considerate of the political class, and wary of calling them the same, most of who by any stretch of imagination are ‘idiots’.

    Continued : http://pratikaar.tumblr.com/post/37555850778/an-open-letter-to-justice-markandey-katju

    1. Jis ne saare desh ko pagal kiya karaar.
      Aise judge ki akal ka kaun kare upchaar

  18. I think the Jefferson quote need be taken as a figure of speech.

    I agree with your general arguments for regulating the sleaze and recalcitrance in the media that often translates to the detriment of the society.
    But the last point you mentioned,"there is nothing called absolute freedom" , may be used as a treacherous weapon by the unscrupulous political tribe. Mrs Gandhi used it to curtail the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. didn't she?

  19. Sir,govt should act firm,who would take initiative?? as most of the press media have political links.its better to have a single media of unbiased news.

  20. Dear Justice Katju, You must take care to think before you speak. As a human being, you are apt to make mistakes but must avoid doing so since you have the responsibility of holding a position of great trust in your earlier capacity as well as now. By being unwise with your words you are in danger of harming the causes and ideals you stand for and of harming and disillusioning the people who respect and value you for your stands and courage....remember with great position comes great responsibility...you sometimes take on lesser evils but are afraid to stick your neck out and take on more pressing and urgent need of the hour issues and evils...hope you will have the courage to do so and stand up and be counted...otherwise you will be just a shooting star, here today and gone tomorrow. there is so much filth perpetrated by the media, whether tv or newspapers or other media, but you remain a mute spectator...you could find out of the box solutions to the problems plaguing our society...use your contacts in the judiciary to implement your ideas...do not plugh a lonely furrow...u attack a relatively harmless person like mamata banerjee, but are dumb n mute against powerful media people and owners or the powers that be...not that i have anything against them...as they say, love the sinner but hate the sin...i hope you read these messages...with regards

  21. I agree that Media specially electronic media in this country is loosing it purpose and has become a instrument to popularize Film stars, cricketers and has become a tool to further the interest of corporate sector. Paid news, Extortion, black mail is a big reality in media industry today.
    I also agree that media should be regulated. I would support a self regulatory mechanism for the media.

  22. Mr.Katju,
    You should first visit Gujarat then only should release words.

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