New Delhi: A Delhi high court bench has decided to settle the question of law raised by a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Subramanian Swamy—whether a foreign national can be the editor of an Indian newspaper.

The order, as dictated in the open court, says, “the larger issue raised by the PIL needs to be considered".

Swamy’s case was that Siddharth Varadarajan was ineligible to be the editor of The Hindu because he is a US citizen.

Varadarajan resigned on Monday.

Accepting that the editorship of Varadarajan has now become a “non-issue" as he “has since resigned from the position", the court will now hear only the issue of foreign editors in Indian newspapers.

The matter will be heard on 8 November.

“My appointment as editor in 2011 was fully consistent with existing laws in India," said Varadarajan.

On Monday, Varadarajan resigned as editor after he was re-designated 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 and 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".

In his PIL, Swamy has argued that the editor of newspaper must be an Indian citizen as the Supreme Court has held 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 editors of television channels are already required to be citizens 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.

Swamy argued that in 2011, the Cabinet approved the Press and Registration of Books and Publication Bill which will replace a 1867 Act. The Bill has a clause that requires Indian citizenship for a print media editor. However, the Bill is pending in Parliament.

The Hindu and its sister publication The Hindu Business Line compete with Hindustan Times and Mint, published by HT Media Ltd, in some markets

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