The privileges committees of state assemblies are fast emerging as deadly instruments to turn the screws on inconvenient news media, or inconvenient news media personnel.
In Congress-ruled Karnataka, in 2017, the committee’s decision to order the arrest of two tabloid editors for articles deemed defamatory of the privileges of legislators, including the Speaker, drew criticism.
In BJD-ruled Orissa, in 2019, the committee’s move to summon former BJD MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda‘s wife, Jagi Panda, who runs the OTV news channel, has resulted in a vertical split in the panel with a BJP member tendering his resignation.
The charge against OTV managing director Jagi Panda is that the channel aired a clip which showed the Assembly speaker taking tips from the Assembly secretary before adjourning the House in November last year.
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik has been at daggers drawn with Jay Panda for a while, and the latter left the party last year.
The summons to Jagi Panda is only the latest pinprick in the couple’s battles. Last year, the right-wing loony Abhijit Iyer-Mitra was arrested and jailed for tweets on the Konarak Temple after flying over it with Panda.