PCI Wants Answers Over Scribe’s Arrest at University of Hyderabad

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The Press Council of India (PCI) took suo motu cognisance of the arrest of a journalist by the Cyberabad police from the University of Hyderabad (UoH), in January this year.

Kunal Shankar, the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana correspondent for Frontline, was picked up on the occasion of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s death anniversary.

The journalist had gone to cover the protest that was organised by students of the varsity, when he was accused of trespassing by university authorities.

The PCI's inquiry committee was led by retired Supreme Court justice CK Prasad, and it sought a detailed response from the Cyberabad police and the UoH administration.

UoH’s complaint with the Cyberabad police cited the Hyderabad High Court’s interim order issued last April, directing the registrar and the police commissioner to not allow any political party or association to hold a meeting on the university premises.

The university has claimed that the ban had also extended to the media, under the ‘outsiders’ tag.

On Wednesday, the UoH administration told the PCI that it regularly issued press passes, and reporters needed to seek permission before entering the campus.

However, the inquiry committee was seemingly not satisfied with the answer, and told the authorities that they had misread the HC order.

The journalist told the PCI that he entered the campus with an invitation from a UoH professor, who was later served a show-cause notice.

The notice, along with other documents and media reports relevant to the case, were submitted to the PCI.

Kunal ShankarI made my preliminary submissions to the PCI and also narrated what happened. The university administration claimed that I was present on the campus as a participant, and not as a reporter.

"There was a lot of cross examination by members of the inquiry committee, who have also asked the police to clarify as to what stage the investigation of the case is in," he added.

The next hearing will be in four weeks.