Daily Desher Katha resumes publication after High Court order

Published : October 12, 2018 11:52 IST

In a major victory for Daily Desher Katha, the newspaper run by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Tripura, the Tripura High Court stayed an earlier order by the District Magistrate (DM) of West Tripura banning the publication of the paper. On October 1, this 40-year-old popular Bengali daily was forcibly shut down by the agencies of the BJP-run State government and its registration was cancelled by the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) at the behest of the DM on the grounds of violation of the Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act, 1867

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On October 10, Ajay Rastogi, Chief Justice of the Tripura High Court ruled: “[T]he future effect and operation of the order of the District Magistrate, West Tripura, dt. 01.10.2018 followed with the order passed by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Sadar dt.01.10.2018 are hereby stayed. However, the respondents will be at liberty to file application for vacation/modification of the interim order after filing of the counter affidavit.” On October 11, after nine days of remaining closed, Daily Desher Katha resumed publication.

A discrepancy in the information provided by the newspaper about itself in print and the data on the RNI website was the reason for the whole fiasco. While the printline of the paper states that the editor, printer and publisher of the daily is Samir Paul, and the owner is Daily Desher Katha Trust, in the RNI website, the editor, printer and publisher is shown as Gautam Das, and the CPI(M) Tripura State Committee is shown as the owner. On the basis of this mismatch a complaint was lodged in the court of the DM of West Tripura by a local resident earlier this year.

From 1979 to 2012, Daily Desher Katha was owned by the CPI(M) Tripura State Committee. In 2012, the management of the newspaper was handed over to a “society”—the Daily Desher Katha Society. In 2015, Gautam Das stepped down as editor, publisher and printer, and the Society appointed Samir Paul in his place. In September this year, the Daily Desher Katha Trust was formed to take over the management of the paper from the Society. The CPI(M) claims that it had provided all the necessary documents during every change to the authorities concerned.

The DM, Mahatme Sandeep Namdeo, allegedly forced the newspaper to close down even after the RNI had issued a revised registration certificate to the daily, and had updated Daily Desher Katha’s information on its website. This gave rise to the speculation that a deeper political game was afoot. Daily Desher Katha is after all one of the staunchest and most unrelenting critics of the ruling BJP government of Tripura.

“The order of the DM which stopped the publication of our paper was unconstitutional, illegal and politically motivated. The Act (PRB Act of 1846) under which the complaint was made, was primarily for keeping the records of publications, and if there is any mismatch there can be a monetary fine. The DM has no authority to stop the publication of a newspaper. This is something unprecedented,” said Rahul Sinha, CPI(M) leader and senior journalist in Daily Desher Katha.

Gautam Das, who is chairman of the Daily Desher Katha Trust, thanked the entire press fraternity across the country and “all the democratic-minded people who have stood in solidarity with the paper.

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