Defending before the Supreme Court the controversial program 'Bindas Bol' about the entry of Muslims into All India Services, Sudarshan News TV has claimed that it is doing "investigative journalism...to awaken the citizens and the government about anti-national and anti-social activities".
Mr. Suresh Chavhanke, the Editor-in-Chief of the Channel who submitted the affidavit on its behalf, further asserted that he has no ill-will against any community or individual and that there was no there is no statement or message in the four episodes broadcast that members of a particular community should not join UPSC .
It further said that the words "UPSC Jehad" were used because it has come to its knowledge through various sources that Zakat Foundation has received funds from various terror-linked organizations.
"It is not that all contributors to the Zakat Foundation are terror-linked. However, some of the contributors are linked to organizations or are organizations that fund extremist groups. The funds received by the Zakat Foundation, in turn, are used to support aspirants for IAS, IPS or UPSC", it alleged.
The 91-page affidavit further said :
"The thrust of the programme is that there appears to be a conspiracy which needs to be investigated by NIA or CBI. It appears that terror linked organizations are funding the Zakat Foundation of India, which in turn is supporting the UPSC aspirants".
"It is also a matter of national security. Consistent with the national security requirements of our country, there ought to be a public debate and discussion on the source of such funding. When it comes to light through various sources that funds contributed by tainted organizations are being used to facilitate people joining UPSC, there is a serious issue requiring public debate, discussion and scrutiny", the affidavit filed through Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain said.
The channel said that it had sent an invitation to Mr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, the founder of Zakat Foundation of India (ZFI), to participate in the debate on the show and that a response was received on his behalf that he will participate in the show. A channel crew was sent to the office of ZFI and the residence of Mr. Syed Zafar Mahmood to get their responses but the police did not allow the crew to stand near the residence of Mr. Mahmood, said the channel.
"In all the three episodes i.e. 12/13/14.09.2020 a chair was kept vacant for Syed Zafar Mahmood the founder of Zakat Foundation of India or a representative's participation in the debate".
The channel further said that questioning a community simultaneously availing the benefits of religious minority and OBC scheme cannot be regarded as communal. The channel further said that the intervenors projected a wrong impression by stating that the show had said that Muslims had a different upper-age limit.
"The intervention application i.e. I.A. No.91132/2020 has projected a wrong impression by showing a slide at page 104 of the said application wherein the answering Respondent compared the maximum age of a candidate who can attempt for UPSC that is for general candidate age is 32 years and for UPSC Muslim OBC candidate is age is 35 years. The answering Respondent while explaining the said slide in episode 1 and later on also has explained and clarified that certain sections of citizens feel discriminated by Muslim OBC candidates getting benefit of age relaxation and also getting benefited of various minority welfare schemes floated by the Central Government. It is in this regard a graphic was projected wherein how a person who starts the race from the same point gets discriminated by the Muslim OBC candidate who gets the benefit of age relaxation, number of attempts in UPSC and also the financial schemes of Central Government for minority (Nai Udaan and Naya Savera)", it said.
The channel said that the programme should not be judged merely on the basis of some slides and all the ten episodes must be seen to understand the perspective which Mr.Chavhanke was trying to project.
The Supreme Court on September 15 restrained the channel from telecasting the remaining episodes of the show after making a prima facie observation that its object was to "vilify the Muslim community".
A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud remarked that there was an "insidious attempt to malign a community" and stated that a constitutional court cannot allow the vilifaction of any community in a pluralistic society.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra & KM Joseph was hearing a petition filed against the telecast of the show hosted by the channel's Chief Editor Mr. Suresh Chavhanke on the ground that it was communalizing the entry of Muslims into UPSC.