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Newspapers agencies do not perform a public function; not subject to writ jurisdiction under Article 226: Delhi High Court

The single-judge bench with Justice Yashwant Varma, while hearing the plea filed by one Prakash Singh against the racial discrimination by a French news agency, stated that a newspaper or a press agency that even though has been established under an act of the Parliament cannot be said to have been carrying a public function of dissemination of news [Prakash Singh v. Union of India]. Therefore, organizations like these cannot come under the purview of writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution since this remedy is only available against public wrongs. The Court said, “While it may be true that the second respondent had been constituted by an Act by the Parliament of France, it becomes relevant to note that the newspaper or an agency engaged in the dissemination of news cannot be viewed as performing a public function.”

The advocates appearing on behalf of the petitioner submitted before the court that the respondent news agency, ‘Agence France Presse’ had been constituted under the law passed by the French Parliament. But the Court stated that the terms ‘public duty’ and ‘public function’ can be understood as the ones that are carried out by the government in its sovereign capacity. The court further noted that the contract of service entered into by the parties did not contain any statutory flavour. The Supreme Court’s decision on the case of Ramakrishna Mission & Anr. vs. Kago Kunya & Ors. and Binny Ltd. Vs. Sadasivan was referred by the High Court. In the case, the court held that the writ of mandamus or a remedy under article 226 is not generally available against private wrongs. While a writ could be issued against any private body or person, especially given the wording used in Article 226, the scope of mandamus is confined to the enforcement of public duties, according to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

In the view of the above-mentioned observation, the High Court held that the writ petition against the news agency was not maintainable. 

Advocate Raghav Awasthi appeared on behalf of the petitioner

Advocates Piyush Ceriwal and Geetanjali Tyagi appeared on behalf of The Union of India.

Advocate Krishnan Kartik appeared for the news agency.

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