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Representation Of Muslims With a Beard, Skull cap and Green Face, With Flames in the Background:SC Says Sudarshan TV Presented Allegations In An 'Inciteful Manner' In 'UPSC Jihad' Show

Radhika Roy
18 Sep 2020 10:52 AM GMT
Representation Of Muslims With a Beard, Skull cap and Green Face, With Flames in the Background:SC Says Sudarshan TV Presented Allegations In An Inciteful Manner In UPSC Jihad Show
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In the afternoon hearing of the Sudarshan News TV's case against restraint of its controversial show "Bindas Bol", the Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and comprising of Justices Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph remarked that the show has been presented in an 'inciteful manner'. While expressing its consciousness over the Constitutional importance of the matter vis-à-vis...

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In the afternoon hearing of the Sudarshan News TV's case against restraint of its controversial show "Bindas Bol", the Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and comprising of Justices Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph remarked that the show has been presented in an 'inciteful manner'.

While expressing its consciousness over the Constitutional importance of the matter vis-à-vis pre-publication restraint, Justice Chandrachud highlighted certain problematic graphics of the show.

He illustrated that the show contained a pictorial representation of a Muslim with a beard, skull cap and green face, with flames in the background. Every time reference is made to a Muslim person, he is shown in a green t-shirt.

He further said that even the live chat had an objectional tenor because of comments such as "Chor ki daari mein tinka. Yahaan pe chor bhi hain, daari bhi hain".

He emphasized that the Court does not have an objection with investigative journalism or with reference to an NGO and its mysterious funds. However, it had exceptions to such stereotype depiction of the community and the implication that an entire community has infiltrated the bureaucracy.

"Whenever you refer to the Civil Services, you refer to the ISI and that is a serious concern as you show it as a conspiracy by Muslims. Of course do your investigative journalism, but can we allow such implications being made? How will you deal with that?

See, we have no problem with you investigating into the funding of an organisation. But, to say that every member of a community represents a terrorist organisation just because some funding member is not above the Board, is wrong. Because this is where it goes from free speech to hatred as it implies that every member of that community has an agenda. You alienate the good members, who are like everyone else, of the community with this sort of a propaganda," he said.

Justice Indu Malhotra also expressed concern over such depiction and insisted that it must be taken down.

Agreeing on the issues, Sr Adv Shyam Divan said that there should be a balanced representation which abjures such as stereotypes. He assured the Court that he will convey the message to the Editor and if the Court still finds that some corrections are required, they shall revisit the same.

He submitted thus:

"The anchor is alive to the fact that this is before the Supreme Court. He's willing to revisit the issue if a problem is found. I believe a cuss word here or a line there is nothing something which ought to ignite the jurisdiction of this court to impose prior restraint.

I'm sure your message will go across that such depiction is to be frowned upon. I see the concern as it is my concern as well. I abhor such stereotypes."

However, he urged the Court to look at the programme as a whole. He said,

"When you do that (view the programme as a whole), the thrust of the programme is not parse it though one tweet here or one sentence there.

We have found that a certain organisation is foreign-funded and we have presented that.

My client has done the research, done the documentation. Look at the programme as a whole and the overall impression, purpose and message of the programme. If you find that it is fine, then it must be allowed to be continued."

While making submissions on the plea in the morning hearing, Divan had expressed apprehensions that if the Supreme Court passed Pre-broadcast directions, then High Courts too will follow the lead, resulting in massive threat to freedom of press.

Addressing this concern, Justice Chandrachud speculated how an injunction of the Supreme Court may have consequences on lower courts where journalists reporting on local elections might be injuncted. He said,

"We are conscious of the fact that this could take us down a slippery slope and that we have an influence on the lower courts. We are circumspect of the fact that such orders might have repercussions of clamping down on freedoms.

We espouse free speech as judges. But, we were distressed when we issued an injunction, because an injunction of the SC under Art. 141 becomes the law of the land."

In this backdrop, he asked Divan about the good faith effort that the channel is willing to take. "Without the Court telling you what to do, we want you to tell us what you'll do to assuage our concerns. We don't want stuff like we detect something and then you remove it," Justice Chandrachud said.

To this Mr. Diavn assured the Court that they will file a clear affidavit on stereotypes which have a tendency to be precieved as hate speech among the viewers.

The matter will now be considered on September 21, at 2 PM.

Read Live Updates from the hearing Here

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