Friday, October 2, 2009

What happened after our WP 22585/2004 was filed

Developments After filing the WP 22585/2004
The readers may have noted that the WP affidavit was dated 6 December 2004 and when it came up for admission it seems 'Notice for admission' was first issued by the High Court of AP to the respondents. The Respondents did not file their Counter Affidavit even after 3-4 adjournments.
Meanwhile we were planning to convert the occasional bulletin to regular fortnightly and with Late Sri V. Venkataramanaiah (former Advocate General) as Convener, a Reception Committee for the function to release the inaugural issue of LAW ANIMATED WORLD was also set up. The first issue - a Martyrs Memorial Special issue - was to be released on the National Martyrs Day of 23 March - the Day of martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. As many as 6 Judges of the High Court were invited to address the meeting (ultimately 3 of them attended and spoke).
But without the registration given by the RNI how can an official ('legal') inaugural issue be published? We were in a quandary. So I - IM Sharma - as counsel began to repeatedly mention before the judge before whom the case was to be listed and at last the Judge agreed to hear our writ petition. However, due to delays by the respondents even arguments could not be completed by 23 March 2004.
Undaunted we brought out a nicely printed inaugural Martyrs Memorial Issue of LAW ANIMATED WORLD and did hold the release cum Martyrs Day function on 23 March 2005 at about 6 PM in Press Club, Basheerbagh, HYDERABAD. Three Judges of the AP High Court - Sri Bilal Nazki (now Judge, Bombay High Court), Sri Chalameshwar (now Chief Justice, Guwahati High Court) and Sri L. Narasimha Reddy (Judge, AP High Court then and now) - graciously attended the meeting and spoke well about Bhagat Singh and his virtues and sacrifices and also about the release of the journal. The Journal was actually released by veteran octogenarian freedom fighter Sri Y.V. Krishna Rao. The meeting was an intellectual success we can say. But sorrily due to the defects in our law and bureaucratic administrative system we could not get registration - not even title verification - by that time.
Later in the first week of April my arguments for the petitioner have been completed and only at the conclusion of the arguments has the counter affidavit of the Respondents been filed! As such we had no occasion to file a reply affidavit countering their silly objection about not affixing Rs. 2/- court fee stamp and other baseless averments.
On the next date of adjournment i.e. on 25-04-2005 I brought this anomaly to the notice of the Judge and requested him short time not more than a week to file a reply. But to my astonishment the Judge said the Judgment is already written and pronounced its operative part. We could do nothing but keep silent awe-struck.
Of course we had to appeal against it immediately but then the judgment copy would not be supplied to us immeidately and the Court will close for summer vacation on 1 May and 30 April 2005 would be the last working day. What to do?
We were already furious and discontented about the very requirement of filing declaration for bringing out a newspaper - a colonial legacy and oppressive requirement in our opinion violative of our fundamental right to speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 (1) and also of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. We were long thinking about challenging the constitutional validity of that provision - Section 5 of the Press and Registration of Books Act - and this development called for urgent action in that regard.
Late Sri V. Venkataramanaiah, former Advocate General, enthusiastically came forward to be first petitioner in the public interest litigation we were planning. With Prof. RVR Chandrasekhar Rao, Sri M.T. Khan and I. Balamani (the Publisher of this journal) as the other three petitioners we without delay moved to file PIL Writ Petition No. 9025 of 2005 attacking the constitutional validity of Section 5 of the Press and Registration of Books Act and filed an interim application in it to immediately direct the RNI to verify the title for our newspaper and also register it without delay. The interim application was taken up on the last working day and it was ordered. Only pursuant to that interim order, the Registrar of Newspapers for India, New Delhi released this title for us and thereafter it took another 6 months or so to get the registration of this journal completed. That Writ Petition No. WP 9025 of 2005 is still pending disposal.
And then the Judgment of the single Judge in WP 22585 of 2004 had to be challenged and we did that also by way of WA No. 1178 of 2005 in June 2005. We will first post the developments regarding this Writ Appeal hereunder and later also post the details regarding the more important [constitutional] writ petition No. 9025 of 2005 in the coming posts.
The Memorandum of Grounds in our Writ Appeal 1178/2005 challenging WP 22585/2004 is as follows:


W.A. No. 1178 of 2005
W.P. No. 22585 of 2004

I. BALAMANI, W/o I. Mallikarjuna Sharma,
H. No. 6-3-1243/156, D. Sanjeevaiah Nagar, M.S. Makta,
Opposite Raj Bhavan, HYDERABAD - 500 082. … APPELLANT/
Petitioner in WP 22585/2004.
1. The Concerned Magistrate for Newspapers -
presently, Mr. Ismail, Deputy Commissioner of Police,
Office of the Commissioner of Police,
Basheerbagh, HYDERABAD - 500 029.
2. The Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI), Wing 2,
West Block 8, R.K. Puram, New Delhi - 110 066.
3. Government of Andhra Pradesh, rep. by its
Chief Secretary, A.P. Secretariat, Hyderabad - 500 022.
4. Ministry of Information and Public Relations,
Government of India, headed and represented by
Sri S. Jaipal Reddy, Union Cabinet Minister,
14, Akbar Road, NEW DELHI - 110 011. … RESPONDENTS.

* * *

The address for service of notices, process etc. to the above named appellant/petitioner is that of her counsel, I. Mallikarjuna Sharma, Advocate, H.No. 6-3-1243/116, D. Sanjeevaiah Nagar (M.S. Makta), Opposite Raj Bhavan, Hyderabad - 500 082.
Aggrieved by the Order dated Monday, the twenty-fifth day of April, Two thousand five [25-04-2005] of a single Judge of this Court in Writ Petition No. 22585 of 2004, the appellants-petitioner herein submits this Memorandum of Writ Appeal on the following among other

G R O U N D S :

1. The impugned judgment of the learned single Judge is contrary to the facts and law of the case.
2. The learned Judge erred in not declaring that either the Commissioner of Police or the Joint Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad or whoever police officer acting as the 1st respondent herein has no jurisdiction to act as the Concerned Magistrate for Newspapers, especially when he categorically found that no provision of law or notification authorizing any of them to act so could be produced before the Court by the respondents;
3. The learned Judge erred in stating that a police officer acting as an Executive Magistrate would be more suitable and efficient person to be the Concerned Magistrate for Newspapers, when it is clearly defined in the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 that only a person with full powers of a Magistrate or a Magistrate of Police could come under the denomination and both the categories of Magistrates could only be that of Judicial Magistrates by virtue of construction of the references in Section 3 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 and also in S. 3 of the later Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973;
4. The learned Judge failed to note that in a metropolitan area, such judicial Magistrate empowered to act as Magistrate can only be a Metropolitan Magistrate; and this applies to even Section 5 of the Press Act.
5. The learned Judge erred in not categorically declaring that the demand for user-charges for newspaper declarations by the 1st respondent is illegal and hence all the user-charges so illegally collected by him so far are liable to be refunded to the respective publishers who were made to pay those;
6. The learned Judge erred in observing that affixation of 1 Rupee Court Fee Stamp is essential for the processing of an application dated 16-08-2004 filed by the petitioner herein, when there is no such requirement indicated either in the Press and Registration of Books Act or the Rules framed under that Act;
7. The learned Judge failed to note that the application dated
16-08-2004 was given by the petitioner to facilitate the discharge of his duty by the 1st Respondent and there is no specific provision in the Press and Registration of Books Act for any such application and as such no court fee is payable on it;
8. The learned Judge failed to see that even if 1 Rupee Court Fee is payable on the application, the 1st Respondent did not take any objection in that regard and did not give an opportunity to the petitioner to correct her lapse and re-present the application, and that Section 5 of the AP Court Fees and Suit Valuation Act is categorical in laying down that if any such court fee is paid at a later stage, it would be deemed to have been paid in the first instance itself;
9. The learned Judge erred in directing the petitioner to submit a fresh application in connection with filing declaration before the District Magistrate instead of directing a competent Metropolitan Magistrate to process the already filed application/declaration and authenticate the declaration expeditiously;
10. Such other grounds as may be urged at the time of hearing of this writ appeal.
The fixed Court Fee of Rs. 100/- is paid.

Hyderabad. Sd/-

Of later developments subsequent to filing this Writ Appeal to be continued in the next post...


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