5 Oct 2020 2:21 PM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned the hearing in the Sudarshan TV matter to October 26.At the outset, SG Tushar Mehar sought a deferment of the hearing. "On September 23, a show-cause notice was issued to Sudarshan TV. Your Lordships may please record this. A reply was received from the channel on September 28, which was the time granted to them. We have a system of...
The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned the hearing in the Sudarshan TV matter to October 26.
At the outset, SG Tushar Mehar sought a deferment of the hearing. "On September 23, a show-cause notice was issued to Sudarshan TV. Your Lordships may please record this. A reply was received from the channel on September 28, which was the time granted to them. We have a system of inter-ministerial committee to peruse the content of the reply...(Justice D. Y. Chandrachud remarked that he is aware)...so a committee was set-up which viewed the four episodes in question ('When?', asked Justice Chandrachud)...on October 1. The committee had also heard Sudarshan TV and it is recorded in its minutes...Now, the committee is not the decision-making authority. It communicated its recommendations in a report to the Central government. Considering the nature of the recommendations, the central government, upon its perusal of the report, issued a show-cause notice to Sudarshan TV and the hearing is scheduled for tomorrow...we are requesting for some time", he advanced.
"Okay...we will grant you time to consider... I think it would be better otherwise there will be a lot of fiasco...", conceded Justice Chandrachud, agreeing to stand over the hearing to allow the government the time to complete the process.
"Shall we adjourn the matter to October 26? The next week may be a miscellaneous week', ventured Justice Chandrachud.
Justice Indira Banerjee expressed a desire to confer with the other members of the bench and the judges muted themselves.
Even as the petitioners signified they have no objections to the deferment, Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, appearing for an intervenor, advanced, "Hopefully, the court will continue to engage in the larger issue".
"You are an intervenor, not a party. Hold your horses", said the SG.
"A classic case on the same issue in Canada was based entirely on an intervenor's submissions", countered Mr. Raj.
"Okay...okay...", the SG cut him across.
Justice Chandrachud informed the counsel that the matter has been adjourned to October 26.
"Would we have to start afresh before a new bench or would the old bench (comprising Justice K. M. Joseph) continue?", asked Senior Advocate Sanjay Hgde for the NGO Zakat Foundation.
"We'll see...", began Justice Chandrachud.
"What is this? He is not even at a party? Just start your submissions! What is this about starting again?", interjected the SG.
There was some murmur about this not being "in good faith", as Mr.Hegde clarified that he was "only asking".
"Your Lordships are giving time, that is okay. But the interim orders would continue. And eventually, the court has to engage in differentiating between hate speech and offensive speech. There is a lot of confusion in this regard, even in the HCs", pointed out Advocate Shadan Farasat.
"Also, rules etc for the exercise of the power under the Cable TV Networks Act need to be considered. As of now, though the government has the power, the modalities as to the due process and procedure - who is to issue notice etc- is completely absent", he continued.
"We have asked the SG to assist us as an officer of the court. He agreed, even though he was going beyond his brief and the UOI's brief", said Justice Chandrachud.
"We may not enlarge the scope of the petition in every hearing, from one intervenor to another. If we start deciding issues, there might be a 100 issues' ', argued the SG.
"The classic case in this regard is based on a Canadian case...it was based entirely on the submissions of an intervenor '', repeated Mr. Raj, in reference to the SG's segregation of parties from intervenors.
"We are only adjourning the hearing now because the consideration of the issue is underway...of course, on the larger issue of free speech, you will be heard", assured Justice Chandrachud.
"You keep on going back to Sudarshan TV. We have said you need not intervene and take up time here", said the judge to advocate S. S. Jha for another intervenor, having previously appeared on the TV show in question.
"As far as the matter is concerned, let it remain between the court, the petitioners and the respondents...Everyone is going into the issue! On the larger issues, everybody can be heard", said the SG.
"Your Lordships had earlier said that in case the matter goes ahead (unclear)...On October 26, can the court stick to that?", asked Advocate Sharukh Alam.
"That will be seen on 26th...", began the SG.
"How can we make a statement today as to which order we will be following on the next date?", asked Justice Indu Malhotra.
"We will fully hear everyone. Let us show some confidence in the process, apart from the outcome", repeated Justice Chandrachud
"However, we will not allow any frivolous pleas or anyone to jump into the matter...We are not talking about you, Ms. Alam. You have of course raised some important points", said Justice Chandrachud
"In whatever capacity Your Lordships you want my assistance, it is binding on me", said the SG, in a lighter vein.
Towards the end, Mr. Hegde sought to ask Justice Chandrachud if the next week is a miscellaneous week.
"That jurisdiction is with the CJI. We are one week short of the vacation, so possibly...But I don't want to be quoted on any channel...I have no inside information", said Justice Chandrachud in good humour.
'An assumption based on experience", chipped in the SG, requesting the court to change 'Sudarshan News', as stated in the order, to 'Sudarshan TV'
"The Committee has viewed the episodes in question and has also heard the representation of Sudarshan TV. Its recommendations have been forwarded to the central government. On receipt of the same, the government has issued show-cause notice to Sudarshan TV today and the hearing is scheduled for tomorrow. Since the hearing is pre intimated, the SG requested for some time to complete the process. We, accordingly, stand over the hearing to October 26", the bench ordered.