New Delhi: Siddharth Varadarajan may have resigned as editor of The Hindu, but the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Subramanian Swamy said he will push ahead with his case against Varadarajan’s appointment that is scheduled to come up before the Delhi high court on 23 October.
That is because Swamy wants a “law read into the record so that it never happens again”, the politician said on Tuesday. Swamy’s case is that as a US citizen, Varadarajan cannot be appointed editor of an Indian newspaper by law.
Indian law is currently ambiguous on the appointment of foreign nationals as editors of newspapers.
On Monday, Varadarajan resigned as editor after he was redesignated as contributing editor and senior columnist by the board of Kasturi and Sons Ltd, the publisher of The Hindu. The board named N. Ravi as the new editor-in-chief of the paper.
Varadarajan was appointed two years ago after the members of the Kasturi family decided, after a bitter fight among themselves, to professionalize editorial and business management.
N. Ram, chairman of Kasturi & Sons (and Ravi’s brother), said on Monday that the move to redesignate Varadarajan that led to his resignation was not prompted by Swamy’s case although he admitted that it “was hanging like a sword over our heads”.
Apar Gupta, a media and communications expert and lawyer, said on Monday that the court could still penalize the company if it was found to have broken a law or, as it does in some public interest litigations, and decide on the larger question of law (whether a foreigner can hold the position of editor in an Indian newspaper).
In his petition, Swamy argued that the editor of a newspaper must be an Indian citizen because the Supreme Court has said that news items published in a newspaper “cause far-reaching consequences in an individual and country’s life.” Newspaper editorials have profound effect in national debates and in the formation of opinion of the voter in a parliamentary or any other election.
Besides, the editor of a television channel is already required to be a citizen of India and newspapers with foreign equity can appoint editors and other key personnel only if they are citizens of India and ordinarily resident in India, he said.
The Hindu and its sister publication The Hindu Business Line compete with Hindustan Times and Mint, published by HT Media Ltd, in some markets.