Srinagar, Feb 08: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Tuesday informed the parliament that at present there is no registered body by the name of ‘Kashmir Press Club’ or its elected managing body since Kashmir Press Club, as a registered body, has ceased to exist and has failed to register itself under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
MHA also said that Estates Department has taken over the government building on 17.1.2022.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Tuesday responded to the queries raised in the house of parliament during the ongoing session.
A series of queries were raised in the parliament which includes whether Government is aware that on 15 January 2022, members of Kashmir Police & CRPF entered the premises of Kashmir Press Club without due warrant or documentation and aided a hostile takeover, if so, the details there of and reasons therefore.
The query includes whether the journalists in Kashmir and whole of India are frequently penalized by State agencies under Indian Penal Code, UAPA, and other penal laws, if so, the details thereof.
It includes whether due to such abhorrent coercion, India holds a poor 142nd position on the World Press Freedom Index.
Also the details of number of cases registered, persons arrested, acquitted & convicted under UAPA. Besides whether it is a fact that there are thousands of persons all over India arrested under UAPA and have not yet been convicted of any charges brought against them, if so, the details thereof.
Minister of State (MoS) Nityanand Rai in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) responded to the queries in Lok Sabha.
The Union Minister informed the parliament that “Presently, there is no registered body by the name of ‘Kashmir Press Club’ or its elected managing body since Kashmir Press Club, as a registered body, has ceased to exist and has failed to register itself under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. “The Estates Department has taken over the government building on 17.1.2022 in the presence of Executive Magistrate, Srinagar. The government building has deployment of static guard for its protection,” the Union Minister informed the parliament.
Rai said that the Government is committed to ensure the right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined under the Article 19 of the Constitution of India. “Press Council of India (PCI), a statutory autonomous body, has been set up under the Press Council Act, 1978 mainly to preserve the freedom of the Press and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country,” he said. “PCI considers complaints filed ‘by the Press’ concerning curtailment of press freedom, physical assault/ attack on journalists etc under Section 13 of the Press Council Act 1978.”
“PCI is also empowered to take suo-motu cognizance in matters on the pressing issues concerning freedom of Press and safeguarding of its high standards,” the union minister said. “Such complaints are processed under Section 13 of the Press Council Act, 1978 and provisions of the Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) Regulations, 1979.”
About the rankings, the MoS said that the World Press Freedom Index is published by a foreign Non-Government-Organisation, “Reporters Without Borders”. “The Government does not subscribe to its views and country rankings and does not agree to the conclusions drawn by this organisation for various reasons including very low sample size, little or no weightage to fundamentals of democracy, adoption of a methodology which is questionable and non-transparent, lack of clear definition of press freedom etc,” the Union Minister said in the reply.
Regarding the cases registered and arrests, the Union minister said that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) compiles the data on crime as reported to it by States and Union Territories and publishes the same in its annual publication ‘Crime in India’. “As per the latest published report, the number of cases registered is 796, persons arrested is 1321, persons acquitted is 116 and persons convicted is 80 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the country during the year 2020,” the Union Minister said.