Friday, January 27, 2023

Media outfits not covered under Article 226 ambit: Delhi High Court

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The Delhi High Court has ruled that a news agency or a newspaper does not come under the purview of Article 226 of the Constitution, as an organisation engaged in the dissemination of news, cannot be seen as performing a ‘public function’.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Yashwant Varma passed the order, while dismissing a plea filed by one Prakash Singh, who alleged racial discrimination and harassment by French news agency, ‘Agence France Presse’.

Even though the media organisations were constituted by an Act of Parliament, but their engaging in dissemination of news cannot be seen as carrying out a ‘public function,’ noted the High Court.

It said such organisations cannot be subject to the writ jurisdiction of High Courts under Article 226, which was available as a public law remedy and not against private wrongs.

On the argument by the Advocate for the petitioner that the respondent news agency had been constituted by a law passed by the Parliament of France, the High Court said though the second respondent had been constituted by an Act by Parliament of France, a newspaper or an agency engaged in dissemination of news cannot be viewed as performing a public function.

It was also submitted that its essential functions would indicate that it was an autonomous civil entity constituted for obtaining in France and abroad, complete and objective information and for placing that information at the disposal of users in exchange for payment.

The Court further noted that the contract of service between the petitioner and the French news agency did not have any statutory flavour.

In this regard, the Court referred to the decisions of the Supreme Court in Ramakrishna Mission & Anr vs Kago Kunya & Ors. and Binny Ltd vs Sadasivan.

It said while writ could also be issued against any private body or person, specially in view of the words used in Article 226, but the scope of mandamus was limited to enforcement of public duty only.

The High Court held that the petition was not maintainable.

Case title: Prakash Singh vs. Union of India

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