Monday, Nov 24, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
Speaking at a discussion on `media & privileges of legislative Assembly', organised by the Madras Union of Journalists, the Chennai Press Club and the Journalists' Action Group, he said that in the case of contempt of court, at least there was a provision that a lawyer could represent the accused; even this was missing in the case of breach of privilege. "This is against every notion of rule of the law and equality."
He cautioned against "falling into the trap of codification of privileges." The history of the Indian experiment with democracy was littered with instances of legislatures trying to stifle personal liberties in the name of breach of privileges. "Codification is a trap." The "track record" of the legislatures did not give enough confidence to leave the provision of privileges alone and it was time this was scrapped.
Recalling an earlier instance where the media was "fooled," he said even when Section 3 (8) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act was scrapped, human rights activists warned the media that Section 24 of the Act was even more potent and against the free functioning of the Press. Section 3(8) was scrapped following pressure from the media, but the fourth estate did not keep up that pressure to scrap Section 24, he said. A.S. Pannerselvam, journalist, said privileges of citizens could not be higher or lower than that of a legislator or a parliamentarian. Bhagwan Singh, president, MUJ, said the need of the hour was to stand united and come to a decision on the course of action to be adopted for achieving the set objectives.
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