Jan 16, 2010


Access to information is essential in a democracy to enable its citizen to make responsible and informed choices. Free and unbiased media is an essential element that ensures the same.

Plethora of news channels vying with each other to sensationalise trivia in order to capture the lion's share of viewership in a fiercely competitive media market can at times be unhealthy. At the same time, media championing the cause of the weak, the poor and the aggrieved is always welcome. Two recent developments catch one's attention. First one being the DGP(Retd) Rathore case and the second, the Sukna Land Scam which involves cases against four top Indian Army Generals.

While in the former case, it is apparent that the DGP got away, way too lightly, ostensibly due to lacunae in the Penal Code wherein punishment for child molestation is disproportionately limited and not commensurate with the gravity of the offence. Media attention has now ensured that Mr Rathore cannot breathe easy for a long time to come, as a number of fresh charges are likely to be levelled against him including abetment of suicide. Fresh investigations by the CBI are in the offing as opposed to those by the state Police with whom, Mr Rathore being a former DGP could have had some clout.

In the latter case, however, media seems to have made a mountain of a molehill. Is the media attack on the Army Chief for being soft on his close aides justified? An NOC (No objection certificate) for some private construction was given........... big deal man................oh come off it folks, most of us don't even know, what an NOC is and what the implications of an NOC being issued are. Many a politician and other public servants have gotten away with far more. However that cannot be any justification for lenient action against men in uniform. Media reports suggest that the Court of Inquiry recommended dismissal of Lt Gen Awadhesh Prakash. How can a government officer be dismissed summarily, for heaven's sake. The only authority which can affect a dismissal to my knowledge is a court of law, whether military or otherwise. A court of inquiry has no locus
standi to recommend dismissal of an Army jawan, leave alone a General.

Obviously the media has got it wrong here. The men in uniform here are apparently paying a price for being just that, men in uniform (expected to be a cut above the rest in honesty and integrity). And I wonder why defence analysts and commentators are not bringing this out. Journalists must not only bring out the facts of the case, but it is also incumbent on them to give the viewers and readers the correct perspective. And that in this particular case does not appear to be happening. Yes a number of cases of corruption have surfaced against Armed Forces personnel, but to be fair, they have all been dealt with swiftly and judiciously.

The judicial process, ideally cannot and should not be swayed or affected by media pressure.

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