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"Cannot Gag The Press": CJI On Plea Seeking Action Against Some Media Houses For Communalising Coronavirus Pandemic

Sanya Talwar
13 April 2020 11:33 AM GMT
Cannot Gag The Press: CJI On Plea Seeking Action Against Some Media Houses For Communalising Coronavirus Pandemic
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The Supreme Court observed that it was not inclined to pass interim orders in a plea seeking strict action against the media for communalization of the Coronavirus pandemic, in light of the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi's Nizamuddin.

"We cannot gag the Press. We will not pass interim order/ directions" stated the CJI SA Bobde.

The bench comprising CJI SA Bobde, Justices LN Rao & MM Shantanagoudar expressed inclination to make solid long term measures about news items and while stating that only upon "taking cognizance, will people understand", adjourned the matter for two weeks.

The Court was hearing the petition filed Jamait Ulama-i-Hind seeking action against media reports indulging in communal branding of COVID-19 pandemic in the light of Tablighi Jamaat meeting held in Delhi last month.

The Court then directed the petitioner to implead the Press Council of India in the matter, and listed it after two weeks.

The Court also heard two other petitions filed by D J Haali Federation of Masaajid, Madaaris and Wakf Institutions and Abdul Kuddus Lakar, highlighting the issue of violence against minority community and publication of names of COVID-19 infected patients.

Advocate Adeel Ahmed, appearing of these petitioners, submitted that in Karnataka there had been incidents of violence after names of patients were made public.

"They're publishing names and addresses of the corona patients. That's against the law" the Petitioner insisted.

However, to this, the bench stated that if the petitioner's prayer was to the tune of killings and defamation, his remedy lay elsewhere.

Last week, Jamait ulama-i-hind, an organization of Islamic scholars, had moved the Supreme Court seeking strict action against the media for communalization of the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi's Nizamuddin.

The plea stated that certain sections of the media had been using "Communal headlines" and "bigoted statements" to demonise and blame the entire Muslim community of deliberately spreading the corona virus across the country, which had in turn threatened the lives of Muslims.

The petition filed through Advocate Ejaz Maqbool stressed that the Government, particularly the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, had failed in its duty to give equal protection of the law to all persons in India under Article 14 of the Constitution by allowing the media to present facts in a twisted manner, using phrases that were prejudicial to the Muslim community.

It is further argued that the media has violated all norms of Journalistic conduct by resorting to such "dog whistle tactics" of targeting Muslims.

Furthermore, such reporting is in clear violation of Rule 6 of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 which prohibits any program which contains attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes, it was averred.

"Actions of certain sections of the media are also against the letter and spirit of the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards issued by the New Broadcasters Association, which is the regulatory body for news channel. Under the Code, ensuring neutrality and objectivity in reporting is one of the foremost principles of media regulation," the plea highlighted

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