For reporting that he was absent-minded when Speaker asked him to make a statement
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Friday served a legal notice on the Press Trust of India (PTI) for reporting that he appeared absent-minded when he was asked to make a statement by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on Thursday.
PTI had reported that when the Speaker called Mr. Krishna to make a statement on the situation in Sri Lanka, he was not in his seat, having been engaged in a conversation with some members on the aisle.
The report said that as Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar drew his attention to the Speaker’s direction, Mr. Krishna failed to immediately find a copy of the statement in his file. The staff of the Lok Sabha Secretariat then provided him with a copy.
Late at night, a senior official of the External Affairs Ministry called up PTI and said Mr. Krishna, handling questions in the Rajya Sabha, had handed over certain papers to his deputy, Preneet Kaur, meant for his statement in the Lok Sabha. When asked to make the statement, he had to get the papers from Ms. Kaur, the official said, arguing that it was not a case of absent-mindedness. This clarification was then added to the original report.
However, in a legal notice served on the news agency, a lawyer representing Mr. Krishna said the report was “completely false” and “malicious” and demanded a public apology “along with an advertisement.”
This is, perhaps, the first time that any Minister has threatened a news organisation with criminal as well as civil action for reporting the proceedings of Parliament, despite the Parliamentary Proceedings (Protection of Publication) Act.
The Act, passed in 1956 at the initiative of Feroz Gandhi, husband of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, states that no person shall be liable for any proceedings, civil or criminal, in any court in respect of publication of a substantially true report of parliamentary proceedings.
The notice also alleges that the PTI had sought to intentionally damage his reputation in the past few months, but did not cite any specific instance.