In this case, the petitioner challenged the Rajya Sabha’s Media Advisory Committee’s decision taken on 6.6.2017.
Facts of the Case
The petitioner is a freelance journalist. He claims to have been covering the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha as well as the Lok Sabha since 1991.
The respondents claimed that the freelance journalists were not given Press Gallery Passes till 2008. On 19.09.2008, MAC decided to consider the request of these journalists for Rajya Sabha Press Gallery Pass. So, in 2009, the petitioner and three other journalists got recommended for an annual pass under the freelance category.
In a MAC meeting held on 19.11.2011, it decided to issue only sessional passes to the freelance journalists. Based on these suggestions, on 06.03.2015, they laid down the guidelines for journalists under the freelance category.
The petitioner held the Permanent Rajya Sabha Press Gallery till the impugned decision of the MAC on 06.07.2017. The decision only allowed sessional passes to the freelance journalist. Earlier, they had only issued an annual pass to them.
The petitioner prays that a permanent pass should be issued to him by the respondent by way of a Writ of Mandamus.
Arguments of the Petitioner
The petitioner challenged the above decision on the ground that it violates his fundamental right. He contended that it not only violates Article 19(1)(a) but also Article 14 of the Constitution. It fails to give a reasonable basis of why it makes a freelance journalist a separate category. This distinction between freelance and accredited journalist has no basis in law.
He claims that it seeks to create a divide and treat freelance journalists unequally. It makes freelance journalists inferior to journalists affiliated with media houses. For substantiating the same, the counsel relied on Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) (P) Ltd. v. Union of India, 1985 (1) SCC 641 and Naveen Jain v. Union of India & Ors., AIR 2019 SC 5087.
Arguments of the Respondent
Respondents stated that an anomalous situation arose with the adoption of the guidelines. The three freelance journalists had annual passes while others admitted to the gallery had sessional passes.
A sub-committee of MAC was set up in May 2017, to recommend the number of freelance journalists to be admitted. It was also asked to rationalize the existence of two types of passes in the freelance category.
It observed that issuing two types of passes for journalists who are professionally equal is discriminatory and unjust. The committee also recommended that only sessional passes should be issued to freelance journalists. It further suggested that they should stop annual passes to the three freelance journalists. Subsequently, MAC accepted these recommendations on 06.07.2017.
The Respondents placed reliance on Dr. Jagdish Prasad Gaur v. The Secretary-General, Rajya Sabha & Ors. It held that the entry to Parliament House is in the nature of privilege. Also, it is open to the Secretariat of the two Houses to regulate the entry therein.
The decision of 06.07.2017 merely does away with the discrimination with sessional and permanent passes. The petitioner can still report proceedings of the Rajya Sabha with the sessional pass.
The counsel submitted that the decision is neither violative of Art. 19(1)(a) nor Art. 14 of the Constitution.
Observation of the Court
The Court noted that the Petitioner has challenged only the decision dated 06.07.2017 of the MAC. This decision removed the discrimination between the same class of journalists.
The Court observed that no person has an unfettered right to enter the same. The Court noted the same in view of the attack on the Indian Parliament by terrorists on 13th December 2001.
The bench comprised of Justice Navin Chawla held that the Court did not find any merit in the same. Hence, the Court dismissed the petition with the above observations. As a result, the Court upheld the decision of the MAC on 6.07.2017 which removes the current discrimination. Further, the Court advised the respondents to revisit their guidelines for issuance of passes.
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