There are several organisations and collectives in the Capital to champion the causes of journalists but an institution located in the heart of Lutyens Delhi has come into focus in the past two decades for all the wrong reasons.
New Delhi: Mirror ought to be also shown to those who have assigned to themselves the task of showing mirror to the power. Some in the profession may raise their eyebrows to this blasphemy but it is the high time that the inner world of the scribes forbidden circle be brought to light so that the society at large have the opportunity to assess whether the estate which it has pinned their hopes on for protection of their fundamental rights of life and liberty is performing their duty honestly.
A look into their innards will be the best way to know whether they are true to the mission of upholding freedom of speech and transparency in all situations. It might be a revelation and look shocking to the outside world that the media world observes minimal adherence to free speech and transparency. At some places, it is totally absent. Of course, there is no lacking of rituals and recitation of scriptures of their religion.
There are several organisations and collectives in the Capital to champion the causes of journalists but an institution located in the heart of Lutyens Delhi has come into the focus in the past two decades for all the wrong reasons. This august institution proclaims in its Memorandum of Association that it is established “to promote honourable practice and foster ethical standards of the profession (journalism).” But in the past two decades or so, it has sullied its image so much and to such an extent that the outside world has come to form an image of it as a lousy place.
Dictatorship has become its way of functioning and charges of corruption have been flying fast and thick against it, particularly in the past two decades. An internal inquiry report of 2005 on the functioning of this prestigious institution says: “The events which led to collapse of the Press Club are well known. There was no supervision or management control, Press club was leaking like a sieve and whoever could lay his or her hands on Club’s money siphoned it away. Only a legal investigation (police probe) can pinpoint all the culprits.”
But no FIR was lodged and neither the sieve was plugged. The leakage continued unabated. In 2009 the then Treasurer wrote a letter to the Minister of State for Corporate Affairs requesting him to “immediately arrest the absolute misuse of powers…leading to virtual financial bankruptcy of the Club.”
Yet, the administrators of the institution founded by the stalwarts of the profession continued the malfeasance remorselessly and mercilessly.
A year after the letter to the Minister, another financial scam exploded in the institution. The new management submitted a complaint to the Delhi police alleging siphoning off of about one crore. The complaint pointed out that the previous management had left “arrears of Rs 33 lakh towards unpaid dues of VAT, PF, ESI and electricity.” But it was only a lip service on their part to eradicate corruption from the club. Though the then management filed a complaint for probe, but it took a long leave from pursuing it.
The court had severely indicted the previous management while rejecting the anticipatory bail applications of the office bearers but the new management did not pursue the probe, and over a period of time, it let the case die by not attending the court proceedings for a year continuously. Being frustrated with the club management attitude towards the case, the court finally closed the case, observing that the complainant remained absent from the court despite serving of summons to appear.
This brings the saga of corruption in the club to the management which is in control now. Instead of being on the wane, the graft run continued unabated. Also, it devised several dictatorial methods to continue its stranglehold on the club. Its style of functioning became autocratic. Transparency and freedom of speech was thrown to the wind. Dissent voices were trampled upon by expelling the members who dared to raise questions against them. Annual General Meetings became a farce, and whosoever stood up to ask questions were shouted down by the lumpens who have filled the club in the past one decade.
(Nirnimesh Kumar is a retired journalist of The Hindu. He worked there for 25 years and covered courts. Views expressed by him are strictly personal)