UP assembly speaker issues contempt notice to TV channels

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A file photo of policemen patroling a street during the communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar. PTI Photo
Policemen patrolling a street during the communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar. Photo: PTI

Lucknow, 10 December: Uttar Pradesh assembly Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey issued a summon and contempt notice to the TV Today group, which owns the two TV channels, Aaj Tak and Headlines Today. Though no date has been given by the Speaker in the notice, officials of the TV channels are likely to appear before the house during the next session of the state assembly.

The TV channel has been accused of contempt of the House for airing a sting operation in September against the minority affairs and parliamentary affairs minister, Azam Khan, accusing him of delaying police action against the rioters. Azam Khan is also the minister in charge of Muzaffarnagar district.

The BSP, the Congress and the RLD supported the government’s view that the media group had violated norms by not giving the raw video footage of the sting and by not sending the reporter and the cameraperson to appear before the committee.

Expect for BJP leader Hukum Singh, who said that the proceedings should be kept on hold till the probe committee gives its report, the entire House supported the recommendation of the committee seeking summoning of TV Today officials. After the proposal was adopted, BJP members trooped into the well of the House in protest. The BJP has already boycotted the committee and even questioned its legality.

During its last session in September, the UP assembly had unanimously decided to set up a joint committee of the assembly on the lines of the JPC to probe into the sting operation. The joint committee of the assembly, headed by Satish Nigam of the ruling SP, alleged that the media house was trying to disrupt the probe. The committee presented its interim recommendations to the Speaker, including the summoning of TV Today official Supriya Prasad in the House, on 10 December. The Speaker accepted the recommendations.

The sting operation showed two police inspectors posted at Budhana and Fugana police stations of Muzaffarnagar district claiming that action against the riots was “delayed under political pressure”. The two officers were transferred after the video was aired on television. Though the administration called it a “routine transfer”, the Opposition alleged it was an attempt to “silence the truth”. The Opposition had stepped up attacks against the government demanding Azam’s resignation. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, however defended Azam, accusing the channels of “selective editing” of the video.

This is the second time that the UP assembly has summonned a TV channel official for a sting operation. On 15 February 2006, the news channels CNN-IBN and IBN 7 aired a sting operation called Neta Bikta Hai on three MLAs – Mahboob Ali (SP), Somaru Ram Saroj (BJP) and Anil Kumar Maurya (BSP) – who were shown indulging in illegal activities, including hawala and drug peddling. The then Samajwadi Party government headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav had summoned Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, IBN18 Network, for telecasting a sting against legislators from western UP. The assembly unanimously accused him of contempt of the House. The UP government had taken note of Sardesai’s “non-cooperation” in the probe. Mata Prasad Pandey was the assembly speaker at that time too and he ordered that Sardesai be brought before the house under police custody.

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