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Govt sends notice to PTI, demands Rs 84 cr penalty

New Delhi: Just a week after Prasar Bharti's accusation of 'anti-national reporting' by the country's biggest news agency PTI besides threat to sever ties in future, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has sent a notice to the news agency demanding it to cough up more than Rs 84 crore as penalty. The ministry, while setting a deadline, has warned the agency of action if it failed to make payment. Reacting over the development, PTI said that they have just received a demand notice and are seeking clarification from authorities, and have no further comments for now.

The notice that sought Rs 84,48,23,281 argues that "the less will be pleased to regularise the breaches in the premises temporarily up to July 14 and withdraw the right of re-entry of the premises subject to the following conditions being fulfilled by you within 30 days from the date of issue of this letter."

It has said that the news agency needs to give an undertaking on non-judicial stamp paper stating that it will pay the difference of "misuse/damage charges" if the land rates are revised with effect from April 1, 2016 by the government and will also remove the "breaches" by July 14 or get them regularised by paying charges.

It warned that further action to execute the deed has to be subject to complete payment and putting the premise to use according to the masterplan.

The ministry's Land & Development Office has warned that an additional 10 per cent interest may need to be coughed out by PTI if it fails to furnish the concerned amount within the stipulated time period. Additionally, if the news agency fails to comply with the terms within the said period, the concession will be withdrawn. In other words, they will have to pay the penalty up to the actual date of payment then and will also be subject to actions.

Rift between Prasar Bharti and PTI started when the latter carried interviews of both Chinese and Indian Ambassadors after the Galwan clash. PTI had carried the interview of Chinese Ambassador Son Weidong where he had blamed India for the India-China violent standoff resulting in killing of 20 soldiers from Indian side.

The PTI interview marked the first instance that a Beijing official had gone on record to admit that during the violence in Galwan Valley on June 15, there had been "casualties" on the Chinese side as well.

Interview with Indian ambassador Vikram Misri on developments in Eastern Ladakh reportedly landed it in the soup. The Indian ambassador, however, had said that India has always respected the boundaries and carried activities on Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The press Club of India had condemned the move to act against the news agency for carrying the interview of Chinese ambassador. "The government gives the impression of working for the dismemberment of the PTI, India's premier news agency, which has established a name for itself for being a professional news establishment. A demolition exercise of such magnitude has been undertaken through its proxy, Prasar Bharati," it said.

"PTI is as old as independent India and through its existence has been a no-profit company on whose Board sit representatives of the country's leading independent (private) news organisations.

It has maintained a conscious balance in its news coverage. As such, it enjoys credibility as a leading media outfit that serves newspapers and other news organisations in the far-flung corners of India who are unable to post correspondents around the country and the world," it added.

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