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Gauhati HC Sets Aside Police Commissioner's Order Suspending Telecast Of TV Serial 'Begum Jaan' [Read Order]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
3 Sep 2020 4:46 PM GMT
Gauhati HC Sets Aside Police Commissioners Order Suspending Telecast Of TV Serial Begum Jaan [Read Order]
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The Court has given liberty to the competent authority to reconsider the matter again after providing a hearing to the affected parties.

The Gauhati High Court on Thursday set aside the order passed by Commissioner of Police, Gauhati to suspend the telecast of Assamese serial 'Begum Jaan'.A single bench of Justice Suman Shyam passed the order after noting that the order was passed without hearing the affected parties, and without following the procedure under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1994.It was on August 24 that...

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The Gauhati High Court on Thursday set aside the order passed by Commissioner of Police, Gauhati to suspend the telecast of Assamese serial 'Begum Jaan'.

A single bench of Justice Suman Shyam passed the order after noting that the order was passed without hearing the affected parties, and without following the procedure under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1994.

It was on August 24 that the Commissioner passed the impugned order to ban the telecast of the serial, which is based on a theme of Hindu-Muslim love relationship, for a period of two months. The order was passed based on complaints by some groups that the serial was against communal harmony.

Challenging the order, M/s AM Private Television Ltd, which runs the channel "Rengoni TV" in which the serial was to be aired, filed a writ petition in the High Court. The petitioner's counsel, S Sarma, submitted that the police commissioner can pass the order only on the basis of the recommendations of a District Monitoring Committee. As per the latest guidelines of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued in 2017, a representative from the electronic media should be included in the Monitoring Committee. However, the recommendation of the Monitoring Committee, based on which the Commissioner passed the order, did not have a representative from the media, the petitioner contended.

The Government did not dispute the fact that the Monitoring Committee was not constituted as per the latest guidelines was not disputed. However, it was argued by the Government Advocate that even if the constitution of the Committee was illegal, it did not have any consequence on the order, as the Commissioner was independently competent to pass it.

The Court did not accept this contention and said :

"The complaints were evidently addressed to the Chairman of the Monitoring Committee and therefore, a duly constituted monitoring committee was required to apply its mind on the merit of the complaints before making any recommendation in the matter which has apparently not been done in this case".

The Court further noted that the copies of the complaints were not served on the petitioner and no opportunity of hearing was given. Also, the impugned order did not record any reason, the Court noted. Therefore, the Court concluded that the order was unsustainable in the eye of law not only on the ground of violating the procedure but also "for violating the principles of natural justice and for non-application of mind".

"The respondent No.4 was clearly not justified in suspending the telecast of the serial by an exparte blanket order without giving an opportunity of hearing to the petitioners to explain their stand or recording any cogent reason for doing so", the Court said.

Therefore, the order was set aside, giving liberty to the competent authority to decide the matter afresh, after affording an opportunity of hearing to the parties. The bench clarified that it has not expressed anything on the merits of the complaint.

Though the Court said that the petitioner will be at liberty to telecast the serial, it ordered that the telecast should be subject to the condition that the Managing Director of the channel should make a personal satisfaction that "any content of the Serial which is deemed to be universally objectionable on the ground of violation of communal harmony or which may contain anything that may harm the religious sentiment of any community, is deleted, before making the telecast".

Click here to download the order

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