THE Press Council of India (PCI) has issued notice to the Associate Building Company, a Tata Sons subsidiary, as well as security agency TopsGroup, to appear as respondents before the media watchdog body in respect of the assault on several photo-journalists in front of Tatas’ south Mumbai headquarters, also known as Bombay House. The PCI also reprimanded the MRA Marg Police Station for not including the role of the Tata Group and its executives in the report submitted to the PCI on the investigation carried out so far by the police.

The PCI has directed F P Talati, CEO of the Associate Building Company, and Shashi Dharan, MD of TopsGroup, to appear on the next date of hearing. While guards employed by the TopsGroup were involved in the assault, the Bombay House building for which security was being provided is owned by the Tata Sons subsidiary.

An Inquiry Committee of the media watchdog was hearing a complaint last Tuesday by the Mumbai Press Club against the assault by private security men hired by the TATAs, through the agency TopsGroup, on dozens of press photographers. The Inquiry Committee included among others, the Chairman of the PCI, Justice C.K. Prasad, Chief Editor of the Statesman, Ravindra Kumar, Group Editor of the Dainik Bhaskar Group, Prakash Dubey, and Indian Journalists Union President S.N. Sinha.

K Amarnath, a senior IJU leader, represented the unions, the Mumbai Press Club and the press photographers. He said the matter was serious since some of the photographers, especially Atul Kamble, have suffered injuries that may cripple their professional life forever.

On November 3, 2016, during the face-off between former chairman of Tata Sons, Cyrus Mistry and the board of Tata Sons, a large crowd of photographers had gathered in front of Bombay House to click pictures of Mistry and various other executives. After escorting Mistry inside the Tata HQ, a posse of private guards, without provocation, turned their ire on the lensmen and assaulted several of them. Three of them – Atul Kamble of Mid-day, Arijit Sen of Hindustan Times and S.L. Shantakumar of Times of India – were seriously injured and had to be admitted to St George’s Hospital for treatment. Many had their equipment smashed.

The police registered FIRs against several security guards and arrested six of them. They have since then been released on bail.

Deposing before the Press Council on Tuesday, March 14, Atul Kamble stated that he was pinned down on the floor by several security men and kicked on his arms repeatedly. He has since had corrective surgery at the Sports Med, a speciality clinic, and continues to wear a sling, and is not able to carry out normal professional operations. He also continues to be under medical observation, and it is not known whether he will gain partial or full recovery. Kamble told the Press Council panel that though he is reporting for work and carrying out back-end operations, he is not able to lift or operate a camera normally.

The PCI has adjourned the hearings in the matter to its next sitting in Delhi in April.

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