The Supreme Court on Friday refused to pass a pre-broadcast injunction order to stop the telecast of a show in Sudarshan TV which was allegedly communalizing the selection of Muslims in UPSC exams.
In a petition filed by one Firoz Iqbal Khan, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud & KM Joseph stated that it has to desist from imposing a pre-broadcast injunction on the basis of an "unverified transcript of a 49 second clip".
"At this stage, we have desisted from imposing a pre-broadcast interlocutory injunction on the basis of an unverified transcript of a forty nine second clip. The Court has to be circumspect in imposing a prior restraint on publication or the airing of views. We note that under statutory provisions, competent authorities are vested with powers to ensure compliance with law, including provisions of the criminal law intended to ensure social harmony and the peaceful coexistence of all communities" said the bench.
The court noted that during the hearing it had been highlighted that the expression of views derogatory to a particular community had a "divisive potential" and the petition had thus raised significant issues bearing on the "protection of constitutional rights".
The court while doing so, issued notice to Union of India, Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association as well as Sudarshan News, returnable on September 15.
"Prima facie, the petition raises significant issues bearing on the protection of constitutional rights. Consistent with the fundamental right to free speech and expression, the Court will need to foster a considered a debate on the setting up of standards of self- regulation. Together with free speech, there are other constitutional values which need to be balanced and preserved including the fundamental right to equality and fair treatment for every segment of citizens", the SC said indicating its intention to examine the issue in a larger perspective to lay down guidelines for broadcast.
The petitioner submitted that the airing of views in the course of the programme would violate the Programme Code enumerated under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995, together with the Code of Ethics and News Broadcasting Standards Regulations.
In a different case, the Delhi High Court stayed the broadcast of the show of Sudarshan TV. The news about the Supreme Court order came to the public only after it was uploaded in the SC website after 7 PM.
The stay order was passed by a single bench of Justice Navin Chawla in an urgent hearing of a petition filed by a group of students and alumni of Jamia Milia Islamia.
In the Delhi HC, the Central Government Counsel appearing for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, on instructions, submitted that several complaints were received by the Ministry against the program proposed to be telecast by Sudarshan TV and that it has issued notice to it. The notice issued to the channel stated :
"1. This Ministry has received several complaints regarding a programme which is proposed to be broadcast on Sudarshan News TV from 28.08.2020 at 8.00 PM. In the promo of the proposed programme which is viral on Social Media Platforms, Shri Chavhanke for Sudarshan TV News Channel is raising concerns how people of a particularly community have suddenly increased in IAS and IPS cadre, etc.
2. You are therefore, requested to clarify on the above in context of the Programme Code enshrined under Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 by return mail."
In this circumstance, the single bench of the Delhi HC proceeded to stay the telecast of the program, which was scheduled at 8 PM today. On the other hand, the Supreme Court did not have an opportunity to hear the Ministry before passing the order.
Advocate Shadan Farasat for the petitioners had sought prohibition of the proposed broadcast of a program titled "Bindas Bol" on Sudarshan News, scheduled to be aired at 8 pm today, allegedly containing content that may defame, attack and incite hatred against Jamia Milia Islamia, its alumni and the Muslim community at large.
As per the Petitioners, they have seen the trailer of the show, anchored by journalist Suresh Chavhanke, in which Mr. Chavhanke has openly engaged in hate speech and defamation against students of Jamia Milia Islamia and the Muslim community.
The petitioners submitted the show claims that the success of Jamia Milia Islamia students in the Civil Services examination 2020 represents a "conspiracy to infiltrate the civil service by Muslims".
It was submitted that Mr. Chavhanke has "openly incited his target non-Muslim audience by fear-mongering that "jihadis" or terrorists from Jamia Milia Islamia would soon hold positions of authority and power like that of Collector and Secretary."
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