Fresh twist to family dispute over Dainik Bhaskar

By , agencyfaqs! | In | July 09, 2003
Supreme Court ruling marks the latest round in the spat between the Agrawals over who owns the powerful newspaper title

Family owned media companies hold a special fascination across the world. And for that reason, what happens within the family makes news. And when the dispute spans several generations, contains allegations of assault as well as fabrication, involves a fight between father and son, its news all right. Especially if it is one of the country's fastest growing media houses.

The unhappy subject in question is Dainik Bhaskar.

A prolonged dispute among the owners, the Madhya Pradesh-based Agrawals, resurfaced in the public eye yesterday when Hemlata Agrawal, representing one of the factions, issued a press release claiming victory following a recent Supreme Court judgement. Dainik Bhaskar is currently controlled by Writers and Publishers Ltd, owned by the other Agrawal faction. The group's turnover from the publishing business is estimated at between Rs 300-350 crore.

According to the Supreme Court, "whether settlement of a private dispute between the parties to a writ proceeding is permissible in law, (was) the prime question involved." The matter landed in the apex court in challenge of an order passed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in 1992. The Supreme Court relegated the parties involved to the same position they had immediately prior to the High Court order.

Contacted for his comments, Girish Agrawal, director, Dainik Bhaskar, points out that at the time of the High Court order, "according to the records of the RNI (Registrar of Newspapers for India), the following were the owners of Dainik Bhaskar: Writers and Publishers Ltd (in Bhopal), Bhaskar Publication Ltd (in Gwalior); Bhopal Graphics Ltd (in Indore); Bhaskar Prakashan Ltd (in Jabalpur); and Sanjay Agarwal (an individual) in Jhansi. All the companies were controlled by Ramesh Chandra Agrawal and family."

In her statement, pointedly issued on paper bearing the Dainik Bhaskar logo, Hemlata Agrawal's tone was jubilant. She said that the 'natural corollary of the judgement is that Dainik Bhaskar belongs to only Dwarka Prasad Agrawal & Bros (It) is the owner of the newspaper 'Dainik Bhaskar'' and that 'necessary steps' in this regard are being taken. She hoped that the partnership would soon be able to 'run the operations of Dainik Bhaskar smoothly and effectively with the active cooperation of all newspapers agents, advertising agencies, employees and readers.' She also expected that the judgement would be implemented in letter and spirit by the authorities who, she said, should 'take suitable and prompt action to ensure that Dainik Bhaskar is no longer published with Writers and Publishers Ltd as its publisher/owner'.

Is it as simple as she puts it? This is what the Supreme Court said: 'We may, however, hasten to add that as at present advised we do not intend to enter into the contention of the petitioners that their fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution of India had been infringed. This court would have entered into the question, if the facts were undisputed or admitted. The question as regard infringement of fundamental right and that too under Article 19 of the Constitution of India cannot be gone into when the facts are disputed. Whether Dwarka Prasad Agrawal and consequently the substituted petitioners are owners of the newspapers and if so to what extent being disputed, it cannot be said, that by reason of the impunged order dated 3.9.1992 passed by the first respondent herein alone, the fundamental right of the petitioner under Article 19 had been infringed.'

While the Supreme Court ruling sets the situation back in time, pre the 1992 High Court order, the matter of Dainik Bhaskar's ownership is far from settled. Expect more contentious news reports on the subject. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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