A writ suit brought by Prakash Singh alleging racial discrimination and harassment against Agence France-Presse, a French private international news agency, was dismissed by a Delhi High Court bench led by Justice Yashwant Varma.
The court ruled that the plea was not maintainable. A newspaper or an agency that disseminates news cannot be considered to be fulfilling a public function, according to the bench.
Advocate Raghav Awasthi, appearing for the petitioner, argued that its essential functions would indicate that it was an autonomous civil entity whose purpose was to seek out, in France and abroad, the elements of a complete and objective information service and to make that information available to users in exchange for a fee.
He also stated that Agence France-Presse was established by a French Act of Parliament.
The Court stated, “While it is true that the second respondent was established by an Act of the French Parliament, it is important to highlight that a newspaper or an agency engaged in news dissemination cannot be regarded as serving a public function.”
Advocate Awasthi said that the agency may not, under any circumstances, take into account influences or considerations that could jeopardise the accuracy or objectivity of the information it provides, and it may not, under any circumstances, fall under the de facto or de jure control of any ideological, political, or economic grouping.
As a result, it was argued that the respondent press agency clearly fulfilled a public function, and that the writ petition would certainly lie because racial discrimination claims had been made.
The court, however, did not agree with the submission and dismissed the plea.
“It is important to remember that the terms “public function” and “public obligation” have traditionally been interpreted to refer to functions performed by the government in its sovereign role. The Court further points out that the petitioner’s and second respondent’s service contract is devoid of any statutory flavour.”