A censure was stayed by Delhi High court on direction passed by the Press Council of India (PCI) which had effectively stopped all government advertisements in certain editions of Hindi daily, Hindustan.
Justice Prathiba M Singh said that the proportionality of the order issued by PCI will have to be examined since no time limit barring such advertisements has been fixed by the PCI.
"If the intention of the impugned order is to stop all government advertising in the petitioner’s newspaper, the proportionality of such an order would require to be examined by this court inasmuch as there is no time limit fixed as to for what period the advertising has to be stopped. Accordingly, the direction for taking action given to the government department shall remain stayed in the meantime," the Court ordered.
It also said the counsel for the Central Government to seek instructions on whether any advertising has, in fact, been stopped with respect to Hindustan or not.
The Court was hearing petitions preferred by Hindustan Media Ventures Ltd (petitioner) against censure order passed by the PCI.
The censure order was passed on account of the publication of two advertisements by Hindustan.
In one instance, the Delhi and Haldwani editions of Hindustan carried an advertisement of Graphic Era University. Suo Motu cognisance of the same was taken by Press Council for an alleged violation of the norms applicable to advertising.
As per the petitioner, the order was passed despite the Press Council of India being informed that other dailies, Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran, had also printed the same previously and were not penalised.
In the other instance, censure order was issued for an alleged violation of Drugs and Magic Remedies Act by the publication of classified advertisement inter alia of Ayurvedic, Unani drugs in the Delhi Edition of Hindustan.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate NB Joshi sought an immediate stay on the operation of order as it was causing an "irreparable loss".
"Everyday is a fight for survival. My revenue loss of Rs 13 lakh..everyday is an irreparable loss," he said.
Joshi contended that the power exercised by the Press Council in the instant case was beyond what it could have exercised in law.
In response, advocate Warisha Farasat, for the Delhi government, said that as of today, Hindustan's name had not been struck off of the panel of newspapers maintained by the authorities for publication of advertisements.
The counsel for Central government, advocate Sushil Kumar said that he did not have instructions on this aspect.
While staying any action by the authorities pursuant to the censure order, the Court also sought response from the Delhi government, Central government, Uttarakhand government and Press Council of India.