Court orders journalists to vacate government accommodation

June 21st, 2009 - 3:20 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 21 (IANS) Delhi High Court has dismissed the plea of a group of senior journalists, who challenged the government’s move asking them to vacate their allotted houses, ruling that the accommodation was not for an unlimited period.
A division bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and S.K. Mishra, in a recent ruling, dismissed the plea of B.K. Mathur and Aribinda Ghose along with other journalists and slapped a fine of Rs.5,500 each for illegally occupying the premises for seven years.

The court also dismissed the petitioners’ attempt to link the issue of their occupation with Government accommodation with freedom of press. “We find no co-relation between the independence of media and press with the provision of accommodation.”

According to the petitioners, the government promised in its guidelines for press that all accredited journalists will be given a government accommodation in the capital if they do not have any house of their own here.

The guidelines were later amended to make all those given accommodation having to pay a nominal rent to the government.

The petitioner contended that since they are accredited journalists, they should be allotted the accommodation and the government’s move asking them to vacate the premises was unfair.

However, the court did not find any merit in this plea, saying: “No doubt accommodation in a city like Delhi being scarce, fetters were put on rights to make out-of-turn allotments by the government. Insofar as the journalists were concerned, it cannot be said that only one set of journalists should have the exclusive privilege to continue to occupy the government accommodation only because they continue to be accredited journalists.”

The appellants claim that the government found that such journalists and cameramen were rendering useful and valuable service to the society and could, thus, be treated as a class in themselves, entitling them to government accommodation at subsidized rates.

The petitioner contended that since the accreditation is renewed on an yearly basis, the occupation of accommodation is directly linked to such accreditation and till the accreditation is withdrawn, the accommodation cannot be withdrawn.

However, turning down the plea, the court said: “The allotment to the appellants was never made for an unlimited period of time but for a limited period of time. Their plea that they are entitled to continue occupation till they continue to be accredited has no force in law as it is not supported by any allotment document.”

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