Echoing observations made earlier this month, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday urged the State to consider forming a mechanism specifically tasked with monitoring media reports so that the authorities can act on public grievances without waiting for a formal complaint.
The Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi added that while social media need not be monitored, the State authorities should keep a check on print and visual media reports.
The Court was hearing a suo motu PIL registered over the reported delay in registering a case against a policeman in Tenkasi who publicly misbehaved with a woman, despite the incident going viral.
Appearing for the State, Additional Advocate General Sricharan Rangarajan told the Court that there is a separate unit set up in Chennai which keeps a tab on media reports.
The Court, however, asked that it be appraised on whether there is any special committee constituted for the purpose, to which various departments can report if any offence, negligence, or deficiency in civic services is reported in the media.
Such a committee can then address the public grievance suo motu without compelling a citizen to approach the police or the Court, it was pointed out.
“When something comes in the newspaper, immediately you can rush and rectify it … All of this will improve the image of the administration. People will get confidence. Each and everything, let us not wait for a PIL”, the Bench orally observed.
There appeared to be no mechanism to take note of acts of negligence, damage to public property or deficiencies in civic duties which may be reported by the media, the Court observed. It added that there should be a special committee with officials from all departments, which could go into media and social media reports to address any reported problems then and there.
The Court proceeded to implead the State’s Municipal and Local Administration department, the Public Works Department, the Highways Department, the Education Department, the Chairman of the TANGEDCO and the Revenue Department as additional parties to the matter, before posting that case for further hearing on Friday.
The AAG, in turn, told the Court that he would inform the Court what mechanisms were presently in place on such matters by then.
As far as the errant cop from Tenkasi was concerned, the State submitted yesterday that the police acted over the incident before the Court took suo motu cognisance.
An FIR was registered, and remand was also sought over the policeman. However, the Court was shocked to be told that the cop has been released on bail by a judicial magistrate, even though non-bailable offences were charged against him.
“On the administrative side, we will take action. Magistrate is just like that giving bail?”, the Court remarked, adding.
“Who is the Public Prosecutor? Has he opposed it? We will go step by step. We will not leave anything.”
It is shocking to note that a non-bailable offence, especially one committed against a woman at the hands of the police, has been very lightly dealt with, both by the police and the magistrate, the Bench said.
The Court has now ordered the production of details concerning whether the cop’s bail plea was opposed, whether the State police had given any instruction to oppose the bail and the bail order.
The Court has also called for the file of the judicial magistrate who granted bail and an affidavit by the police inspector chronicling all events in the case, from the cop’s arrest onwards.