NEW DELHI — Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has came under sharp attack for his government's controversial circular threatening action against the media for any defamatory news, with Congress and BJP accusing him of being a "hypocrite" and "anti-democratic".
"When there is criticism of the government, when the wrongdoings of his government is exposed by the media, the Chief Minister is taking objection to that. This shows the anti-democratic attitude of the Chief Minister," Congress leader P C Chacko said.
Voicing similar views, BJP said while Kejriwal talks about freedom of speech, he wants everyone else's "throat to be throttled".
"He talks about unfettered freedom of speech but he wants everybody else's throat to be throttled. This is the height of hypocrisy," BJP spokesperson GVL Narsimha Rao said.
Delhi Government has asked all its officials to lodge a complaint with the Principal Secretary (Home) if they come across any news item which damage the reputation of the Chief Minister or the government, so that further action can be initiated.
According to the circular issued by the Directorate of Information and Publicity Department, if any officer associated with the Delhi government feels that the published or aired news item damages his or the government's reputation, he should
file a complaint with the Principal Secretary (Home).
Ajay Maken, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee President, said it was "weird" that Kejriwal is doing everything opposite of what he used to say before elections.
Stressing that this was not happening for the first time, Maken said, "As soon as his party came to power, he had stopped media's entry in the building (Secretariat). He should not have a problem with the media as his party came to power with their help".
The Editors Guild of India deplored the circular calling it a "crude attempt" to "still" media criticism and demanded its immediate withdrawal.
The Guild said it is shocked by the circular asking public officials to report "defamatory imputations" relating to the Chief Minister, ministers and public officials in respect of their conduct in relation to their public functions for the purpose of launching criminal defamation proceedings against the media, thereby enthroning "intolerance as official policy".
"At a time when the trend is towards greater transparency and openness in public administration, this crude attempt to still media criticism of officials performing public functions is deplorable," the Guild said in a statement.
The Guild said that it is strange that a Chief Minister and a party that rode to power on a popular democratic platform should turn "intolerant" when in office.
"It is doubly ironic that Mr Kejriwal who in the Supreme Court has challenged the constitutional validity of the criminal defamation provisions of the Indian Penal Code when used against him should direct his government to use the same provisions against the media," it added.
The Guild called upon Kejriwal and the Delhi Government to withdraw the circular on defamation forthwith and also ensure free access to its offices.
"The Delhi circular on defamation brings out once again the dangers posed to free expression by the criminal defamation provisions in the hands of an intolerant government," it said.
The statement said it has been the position of the Guild that defamation should be decriminalised and treated as a "purely civil wrong".