Both Houses of the state legislature on Friday passed the landmark Maharashtra Mediapersons and Media Institutions Bill to protect journalists from attacks. Maharashtra is the first state to pass such a law.There have been 175 attacks on journalists in the last one decade. In 2011, investigative journalist J Dey was shot dead in Powai allegedly at the behest of gangster Chhota Rajan.

Introducing the Bill, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “To effectively curb the occurrences of such incidents in the state and to protect mediapersons and property of mediapersons and institutions, the state government has considered enacting a special law.“

According to provisions of the Bill, all offences registered under the Act will be cognizable and non-bailable and anyone who commits or attempts to commit or abets or instigates or provokes the commission of any act of violence in the contravention of the law, will face up to three years in jail andor fined up to Rs 50,000. In addition, the offender shall be liable to pay compensation for damage or loss caused to property as may be determined by the co urt and also be liable to reimburse medical expenditure incurred by the mediaperson. If the compensation is not paid, it shall be recovered as if it were arrears of land revenue.

The Bill also provides that if a mediaperson misuses the provisions of the Act or makes a false complaint, he will face up to three years in jail andor fined up to Rs 50,000.

Welcoming the CM‘s deci sion, Patrakar Hall Virodhi Samiti convenor S M Deshmukh said, “We launched the movement for a special law for the protection of journalists in August 2010. We knocked at the doors of successive CMs, all of them promised a special law, but no concrete steps were taken to bring in the legislation.Fadnavis not only gave an assurance, but made it known to the media that he was with them.“

Bal Thackeray memorial lease at Rs 1 a year

The legislative assembly on Friday passed a Bill with an amendment to lease out the plot that houses Mayor’s Bungalow in Shivaji Park for construction of late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s memorial for just Re 1 per annum.Congress group leader Sharad Ranpise had introduced the amendment on Thursday , The original Bill said the lease rent would be nominal and less than the market value. Under existing provisions, BMC can’t sell, lease or transfer plots for less than the market value.Now, BMC will be able to lease out the plot to Balasaheb Thackeray National Memorial at a nominal rate. TNN

`Form SIT to probe mid-day meal contract scam’

The state education depart ment has decided to urge the home department to form a special investigation team (SIT) to probe into the alleged mid-day meal contract scam.

Raising the issue in the assembly , MLA Prakash Abitkar demanded the government hand over mid-day meal contract rights to the collector instead of inviting e-tenders. “The same contractor bagged the contract even after the e-tender shift,“ he said. Former BJP minister Eknath Khadse said, “The state should initiate a SIT probe .“ Education minister Vinod Tawde said his department will urge the chief minister to set up a SIT. TNN