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Delhi High Court Issues Notice To AajTak, Press Council Of India And The Centre On Plea Alleging Misreporting On Farmers' Protests On Republic Day

Shreya Agarwal & Nupur Thapliyal
1 Feb 2021 7:05 AM GMT
Delhi High Court Issues Notice To AajTak, Press Council Of India And The Centre On Plea Alleging Misreporting On Farmers Protests On Republic Day
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The Delhi High Court today issued notice to and sought replies from AajTak, the Press Council of India and the Centre, on a petition filed by former MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa alleging that video reports by the channel on the protests are in fact a "concoction of phantom imagination" bearing no nexus to the facts of the protests.Alleging misreporting by the channel on the farmers' protests...

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The Delhi High Court today issued notice to and sought replies from AajTak, the Press Council of India and the Centre, on a petition filed by former MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa alleging that video reports by the channel on the protests are in fact a "concoction of phantom imagination" bearing no nexus to the facts of the protests.

Alleging misreporting by the channel on the farmers' protests on Republic Day, 2021, the petitioner prays for the restraining of the fake-news by "setting the accountability, of the concerned
Authorities/ Departments" and towards this end asks for framing of necessary guidelines, appropriate laws, and bye-laws, including "fixing the appropriate punishment and penalties for violation of the concerned guidelines and laws".
The plea alleges that "vicious, unmitigated, abhorrent, concocted and reprehensible actions by certain media houses (i.e. Aaj Tak)," "have unleashed an offensive and potentially fatal communal attack on the "Sikh" community by continuous circulation and constant transmission of unverified videos through different platforms including their respective news channels, YouTube, and other such digital and online platforms, pursuant to the events that unfolded New Delhi on the 72nd Republic Day of India on 26.02.2021."

BACKGROUND OF THE PETITION:

The petition has been filed by Manjit Singh G.K., a resident of Delhi and the President of a religious party namely Jagg Asra Guru Ott.

According to the petitioner, the protestors including the farmer union leaders have been taking due care and caution to ensure that no convenience is caused to the public at large while continuing the protest.

However, on the fateful day of 26th January 2021, "due to the infiltration of the protests by certain anti social and ill motivated elements" the tractor rally was met by severe and brutal assaults by police authorities which created an opportunity for these anti social elements to create ruckus.

"The anti-social and ill-motivated elements utilized the said opportunity to create ruckus amongst the public with the object of delegitimizing the protests." The petition says.

The plea therefore submits that subsequent to such events, AAJ TAK on 27th January 2021 showcased a video wherein its correspondent Mr. Arvind Ojha had unequivocally alleged that the protestors were involved in vilification and destruction of the "tableaus" of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand which were featured at Rajpath earlier in the day during the 72nd Republic Day celebrations.

"The tirade launched through the circulation such malicious and vindictive videos is meant to outrage the dignity, modesty and goodwill of the "Sikh" community and to incite public sentiments against the people belonging the "Sikh" community. The Petitioner submits that they legitimately apprehend that such deliberate provocation of the general public at large could result in disastrous consequences for the "Sikh" community who have served as the beacon of hope for this nation at its most dire times." The petition states.

In view of this, the petition highlights the significance of Rule 6 (Programme Code) under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 along with a "Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards" issued by the News Broadcasters.

PRAYER OF THE PETITIONER:

The petitioner seeks the following prayers:

  1. Issue order or direction restraining the respondents for spreading fake news by setting accountability, liability and responsibility of the concerned Authorities/ Departments by - (i) framing the necessary guidelines (ii) framing the appropriate laws and bye-laws (iii) fixing the appropriate punishment/penalties for violation of the concerned guidelines and laws.
  2. Issue order or direction on Respondents to constitute a Committee for handling the fake-news on various social handles.
  3. Issue order or direction for organizing press-conference or uploading/ circulating/ broadcasting the authentic news on the official website of the concerned Authorities/ Department to counter fake news in the public interest.
  4. Issue order or direction restraining Respondent, No.1 from circulating, transmitting and showcasing videos or news content which is directed towards vilifying a particular community and inciting hatred.
  5. Issue order or directions to the Respondents keeping mind about the welfare, well-being in the interest of the public.


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