The Union Housing ministry has imposed a fine of Rs 84.48 crore on news agency Press Trust of India (PTI), accusing it of having violated the terms of the lease agreement under which it was allotted land for its Sansad Marg office in Delhi.
The government has asked the news agency to pay the amount by 7 August, failing to do which the agency will have to pay 10 percent interest on the total dues. A report in The Print quoted an official from the ministry as saying that PTI had not paid the ground rent since 1984, and that the agency 'misused the land-allotment terms by converting the basement into an office.'
The report also quoted a PTI spokesperson as saying that the agency has received the notice and is seeking clarification from the authorities.
This is the second time when the Centre has resorted to legal action against the news agency after PTI published an interview of Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong on 25 June where he blamed India for the standoff at the Galwan Valley. On 27 June, state broadcaster Prasar Bharati threatened to cancel the subscription of PTI after accusing it of "anti-national reportage".
The news agency had also mentioned India's stand in its report. However, the Chinese Embassy had later published an abridged version of the interview, which left out India's statement.
Responding to criticism over the interview, a PTI spokesperson was quoted by The Print as saying, "Interviews with newsmakers are routine business for media organisations during which a range of questions are asked. Some of the comments make news. It is clear that the one-sided criticism of the PTI interview has been generated by the truncated version put out by the Chinese Embassy."
At the time, Livemint had quoted a source at the state broadcaster as saying, "This kind of news coverage no longer makes it tenable to continue the relationship the two had shared for decades, as part of which the public broadcaster has been supporting PTI with huge annual fees running into several crores."
Prasar Bharati, which comprises the state-owned Doordarshan Television Network and All India Radio, pays annual fees of Rs 9.5 crore to the agency.