NBSA Chairperson Justice J S Verma passes away

New Delhi : The Indian news broadcast industry lost a guide and mentor late last evening in the passing away of 80 year old Justice (Retd.) J.S. Verma, chairperson of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA).

Verma, a former chief justice of India and former chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), was appointed the first chairperson of the NBSA, a self-regulatory body set up by News Broadcasters Association (NBA), on 2 October 2008. He took over the role at a time when the government was making noises that the it would step in an censor the news TV industry if it did not get its self-censorship act together. His first major challenge had been to draw up guidelines for news channels, following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai a month or so into his appointment.

The NBA has mourned his passing on. In a press note it said: “He believed that self-regulation in the broadcast media is the best way forward in achieving a balance between the media's duty to empower the participatory role of the people in governance. In his frequent interaction with members of NBA he would tell them that in a democracy, it was the media's duty to inform the people of everything of significance; but the right to inform did not include the right to mis-inform as the media's right is no greater than an individual's right, which was again subject to reasonable restrictions. He advised members that self-regulation was the best way so that there was no occasion for any outside intervention to regulate.”

During the past four years of his association with NBSA, he took ‘pro-active steps to ensure that broadcasting standards improve. The entire electronic news broadcasting fraternity deeply mourns the passing away of this extra ordinary person who lived by his principles and convictions until the very end.’

The Broadcast Editors' Association too condoled the passing away of Verma.

In a condolence message, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said, ‘Justice Verma was an iconic personality, who gave jurisprudence, a new perspective with the judgements that he pronounced. As a firm believer of judicial accountability and probity, Justice Verma will always remain etched in public memory. The entire country deeply mourns the passing away of this extra ordinary intellectual who lived by his principles and convictions till the very end.’

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Justice Verma was held in great respect as a public figure not only for his vast understanding and knowledge of law and the many path-breaking judgements he delivered as a Judge, but also for his deep sensitivity to the concerns of the common man and his fierce commitment to the public good. His service to the country continued even after his retirement as Chief Justice of India, and the positions he held included Chairman, National Human Rights Commission and Chairman News Broadcasters’ Standards Authority.

Verma, born January 18 1933, was the 27th chief justice of India from 25 March 1997 until his retirement on 18 January 1998. After obtaining degrees of B.Sc. and LL.B. from Allahabad University, he joined the Bar in 1955; became a judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in 1972; its chief justice in 1985; the chief justice of Rajasthan in 1986; a judge of the Supreme Court of India in 1989; and then the chief justice of India. He was also the acting governor of Rajasthan, twice between 1987 and 1989.

He headed the commission to inquire into the security lapses leading to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination (1991-1992); and the Committee to suggest operationalisation of the Fundamental Duties (1998- 1999). He was the chairperson of the NHRC from 4 November 1999 to 18 January 2003. After demitting that office Verma engaged himself in pursuing matters of national and public concerns, and advocating measures for amelioration of the polity.

In the aftermath of the gang rape in Delhi on 16 December 2012, the Indian government on 23 December 2012 appointed a three member committee consisting of J. S. Verma, justice Leila Seth and Gopal Subramanium as members to look into possible amendments of the criminal law to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals committing sexual assault of extreme nature against women. In view of the significance and urgency of the task, the committee undertook and performed the herculean task within 30 days.

He is survived by his wife and two daughters who along with their families were with him at the time of his demise.

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