Career in Journalism does not require specific qualification: Delhi HC on challenge to IIMC DG’s appointment

While dismissing an appeal challenging the appointment of Dr Sanjay Dwivedi as the Director General (DG), Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), the Delhi High Court recently held that a career in journalism does not require a specific qualification.

A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad made the observation in its judgment of November 1, while hearing an appeal against a judgment of a single judge of the high court of November 6, 2020, which had dismissed the challenge to Dwivedi’s appointment.

Dwivedi was appointed DG, IIMC, by the Central Government on July 1, 2020, after the institute issued an advertisement on June 13, 2019, seeking applications for the post. His appointment was challenged by one Ashutosh Mishra on the ground that it did not satisfy the minimum eligibility criteria for the said post. Mishra approached the single judge challenging the appointment and further sought a direction to IIMC and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to “probe into the alleged illegal appointment of Dwivedi”.

Mishra argued Dwivedi did not possess the requisite work experience. According to the advertisement issued by IIMC for the post of DG, in addition to a good Master’s degree, a candidate required a minimum of 25 years of experience in the field of journalism/films/media with administrative experience of holding senior positions in Academic/Professional Institution/University Department/Organization of National repute. Mishra’s counsel submitted that Dwivedi did not have a PhD and despite the absence of this qualification, he was appointed a reader/associate professor at the Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication, Madhya Pradesh, and thereafter became a professor and consequently a vice-chancellor at the varsity.

Dwivedi finished his bachelor’s degree in 1995 and Master’s in 1996 after working as a sub-editor between 1994-1995 at Dak Desk, Dainik Bhaskar, Bhopal. He argued Dwivedi’s work experience reveals that while he was working as a sub-editor, between 1994-1996 he was a student of Bachelor of Journalism and Mass Communication (BJMC) as well as Master of Journalism and Mass Communication (MJMC). Therefore, he could not have been working and studying at the same time, and on the cut-off date, Dwivedi had only 23 years of experience.

Perusing the facts, the Delhi High Court, however, observed, “A bare reading of the work experience indicates that the Respondent No.3 (Dwivedi) commenced his professional activities from 10.07.1994, and consequently, as on 19.07.2019, Respondent No.3 had completed 25 years of work as was required in the advertisement. It, therefore, cannot be said that Respondent No.3 did not possess the requisite essential requirements for being appointed to the post of DG of IIMC”.

The court, however, held that “it becomes imperative to note that, unlike medicine or law, pursuing a career in journalism does not require possessing a specific qualification as such”. The single judge had noted that the advertisement “did not specify” whether or not the work experience of a person applying for the post of a DG could only be calculated after the attainment of a Master’s degree.

The HC upheld the judgment of the single judge and that he had “correctly observed” that the requirement of holding a Master’s degree is “disjunctive to the 25 years of experience that is stated in the advertisement”, and that Dwivedi’s work experience can be calculated “before” he completed his Master’s degree.

Accordingly, after a holistic reading of Dwivedi’s biodata along with the June 13, 2019, advertisement of the IIMC, the HC held his appointment was not in violation of the rules prescribed. The HC referred to the judgements of the Supreme Court which state that once concerned authorities are satisfied with the eligibility qualifications of a person it is not for the court to embark upon an investigation of its own to ascertain the qualifications.

Dismissing the appeal, the HC held, “The Appellant (Mishra) has failed to satisfactorily discharge the burden imposed on them that would warrant the interference of this Court by way of issuance of a writ of quo warranto”.

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