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The Golden Yug & Another v/s UT of Jammu & Kashmir & Others

    WP(C). No. 72 of 2021 & CM. Nos. 334 & 335 of 2021

    Decided On, 01 March 2021

    At, High Court of Jammu and Kashmir

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE SANJEEV KUMAR

    For the Petitioners: Abinav Sharma, Sr. Advocate, Abimanyu Sharma, Advocate. For the Respondents: Suneel Malhotra, G.A.



Judgment Text

1. The petitioners are aggrieved and have challenged the communication of respondent No.2 issued vide his No. INF/J-1544-49 dated 14.01.2021 whereby the assignment of Government Advertisements to petitioner No.1 has been temporarily suspended for ‘indulging in unethical practices’ and the petitioners have been called upon to explain their position.

2. The impugned communication of suspension and show cause has been assailed by the petitioners primarily on the ground that the same has been issued in violation of principles of natural justice and without there being any material against the petitioners. It is claimed that the petitioners have already responded to the aforesaid communication and have, vide communication dated 14.01.2021, demanded following details so as to enable them to give effective reply to the show cause notice.

(i) Details of the "unethical practices" in which The Golden Yug Daily Newspaper is alleged to have been indulging;

ii) Copy of decision of the Empanelment committee claimed to have been taken on 7th of December, 2020; and,

iii) The provisions of law under which the advertisements to The Golden Yug Daily Newspaper have been suspended.

3. Mr. Abhinav Sharma, learned senior counsel has conceded that the Director, in terms of the policy promulgated vide Government Order No. No. 05-ID of 2020 dated 15.05.2020, has the authority to suspend the assignment of Government Advertisements pending decision with regard to de-empanelment of the newspaper of the petitioners. His grievance, however, is that even suspension, which may be primarily for a period of three months, can only be resorted to, if there is sufficient material with respondent No.2 to do so.

4. The respondents have filed their objections in which they have taken a stand that respondent No.2 has proceeded strictly as per the policy promulgated vide Government order dated 15.05.2020 (supra) and has given an opportunity to the petitioners to explain their position and appropriate decision with regard to de-empanelment of the petitioners’ newspaper shall be taken only after considering the explanation, if any, tendered by them.

5. Having heard learned counsel for the parties and perused the record, I am of the view that the impugned communication, in so far as it calls upon the petitioners to show cause as to why their newspaper be not de-empanelled, cannot be found fault with and the writ petition to challenge the same is premature. The petitioners have already responded to the impugned communication and have demanded certain information which, this Court is of the opinion, deserves to be provided to the petitioners so as to enable them to give effective reply to the impugned show cause notice.

6. So far as the power of suspension of respondent No.2 pending proceedings of de-empanelment is concerned, the same is expressly provided in the policy promulgated vide Government Order dated 15.05.2020 (supra) and, therefore, the exercise of such power by respondent No.2 cannot be found fault with.

7. Keeping in view the totality of circumstances, this Court is of the view that this petition deserves to be disposed of and is disposed of accordingly, by issuing the following directions:

(i) That respondent No.2 shall, in response to the communication of the petitioners dated 14.01.2021, supply the following information within one week from the date a copy of this order is made available to him.

(a) The details of ‘unethical practice’ indulged in by the petitioners’ newspaper and other material on the basis of which respondent No.2 has issued the impugned notice;

(b) A copy of decision of the Empanelment Committee stated to have been taken on 07.12.2020.

(ii) On receipt of aforesaid information from respondent No.2, the petitioners shall submit their reply to the show cause notice within two weeks.

(iii) The decision with regard to the de-empanelment or otherwise of the petitioners’ newspaper shall be taken by respondent No.2 within two weeks from the date reply to the show cause notice is given by the petitioners, by a speaking order.

(iv) That non-adherence to the schedule

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aforementioned shall be at the peril of the party in default. It is, however, made clear that in case the reply to the show cause notice is given by the petitioners within the stipulated period and the same is not disposed of by respondent No.2 within two weeks as aforesaid, the assignment of advertisements to the petitioners’ newspaper shall be restored forthwith. With the aforesaid directions, this petition along with connected CMs is disposed of.
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