In an unprecedented move, the Press Council of India (PCI) has decided to serve a bailable arrest warrant against Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry Secretary Sunil Arora over his non-appearance before it on Monday following a summons issued to him.
The unanimous decision to secure Arora's attendance before the Council at its next scheduled meeting here on April 22 was taken by its members at their meeting in New Delhi on Monday under the Chairmanship of Justice(retd) C K Prasad.
The PCI on March 17 had decided to institute a suo motu inquiry into the "continued apathy" of the I and B Ministry towards the activities of the Council particularly at its efforts to preserve the freedom of the press and its mandate under the Press Council Act and directed its Secretary to appear before it on April 11. Arora is retiring on April 30.
Prasad said the Council received a communication from Arora on Wednesday in which he said he was not present in New Delhi to receive the notices as he was out of the country and that he would appear before it.
Arora at the same time requested the Council to consider a change in the date for his appearance.
The I and B Secretary's communication is being examined by the Council, Prasad said, even as some members suggested that the warrant be kept under abeyance.
A PCI member said since Arora did not turn up on April 11, the members present unanimously brought out a resolution that a bailable warrant may be issued and the authorities concerned be informed.
The Council has addressed several communications to the I and B Ministry on various issues concerning the functioning of the Council but received no satisfactory response, several PCI members said.
Prasad said several issues had to be discussed and the Council had issued notices to the Secretary on this matter as is the practice.
He said there were several matters concerning the powers of the Council, the autonomy and the sitting fee to the executive members which required redressal.
Prasad said that to reduce the Councilâ€™s dependency on the government it had proposed increasing the levy fee on newspapers. The levy fee is paid by newspapers depending on their size and circulation to avail themselves of the services of the Council.