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Sudarshan TV Program An Attempt To Break Down Hindu-Muslim Bonding, Adv Shadan Farasat Tells SC

Sanya Talwar
21 Sep 2020 3:11 PM GMT
Sudarshan TV Program An Attempt To Break Down Hindu-Muslim Bonding, Adv Shadan Farasat Tells SC
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Sudarshan TV's 'Bol Bindas' show was an attempt to break down the bonding between Muslims and Hindus, submitted Advocate Shadan Farasat before the Supreme Court on Monday.

He was appearing for 3 Jamia Millia University students, who have intervened in the case, before a bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra & KM Joseph.

Farasat said that there is an "affirmative responsibility on the State to ensure that rights emanating from Articles 14 & 21 of the Constitution for a citizen are not violated. "If they are violated, will the Supreme Court just silently watch?", he opened his arguments.

The Counsel vociferously argued that "Hate Speech" laws applied in the instant case, making a solid case for restraint on telecasting of the remaining episodes because from the tenor and tone of the show and the constant surmises of innuendoes used, incessant vilification of the Muslim community was apparent.

He read transcripts from the show and said that they are comparable to "anti-semitism", which are classic examples of "Hate Speech", prohibited across all jurisdictions. These, he argued were directly in contravention of Articles 14 & 21 of the Constitution.

Further, he said that Sudarshan TV has already expressed its disinclination to change the content of the program, as its affidavit did not address the concerns raised by the Court on the last hearing day. There are some nuggets of facts here and there, but the tone, tenor, and presentation of the show are rooted in communal hatred. That is the reason why they have not chosen to delete any portions from the show, despite the implied hint from the Court; because without those, Chavhanke also knows that there is nothing left on the show, Farasat argued.

Statements such as "Infiltrating into the category of my OBC Brothers", the vilification of the Urdu language which the anchor (Suresh Chavhanke) called for banning, and the constant inciting of people to take action against the Muslims on the pretext of a "conspiracy to capture Hindustan" were projected in the show, said Farasat.

This, he added, demonstrated how the Chavhanke was propagating Hate Speech against a community. 

Next, Farasat argued as to how the show attacked the Constitutional tenets which dented right at the core of Article 14. For this, he put forth three skeletal arguments,

"1) Ability to access equality of employment is completely demeaned - this is the direct attack which is insinuated by the show;
2) Program aims at creating an image of one group of citizens that they're not worthy of public life in the country and strikes at the core of dignity;
3) Affirmative responsibility on everybody of the state to protect Fundamental rights"

He referred to a thought from the book 'How Democracy Dies' (written by Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky) that in declining democracies, institutions remain notionally but are hollow inside.

Likewise, the continuous pervasive use of hate speech dehumanizes the targeted person, he submitted.

"So, notionally I remain a citizen but Article 14 of the Constitution(which guarantees right to equality) becomes a hollow promise to me", he explained.

Explaining the impact of hate speech on right to life under Article 21, he said that hate speech can create an atmosphere where the targeted community is exposed to violence.

The propaganda in Radio Rwanda played a part in Rwandan genocide, he submitted. Likewise, the violence against Rohingyas in Myanmar was spurted by a sustained campaign that they were a threat to the majority.

He elaborated on these points by first stating that hate speech thrives by inducing fear in the majority community that the minority is a threat to them.

Farasat: This program is an attempt to break down the bonding of Hindus and Muslims in the country. If hate speech of this kind is permitted over a period of time, it is bound to create an environment of this kind. Clear violations of Article 14 & 21.

On the issue of how the restricting orders emanated from Article 32 of the Constitution, Farasat said that it was an issue of "constitutional morality" as the values of pluralism, communal harmony, inclusivity and fraternity were affected. It was not a mere grievance of any particular individual, which could be redressed through a civil suit. One entire community has been vilified, he submitted. The issue was there of constitutional importance, warranting interference under Article 32.

Farasat further submitted that seeking judicial intervention to curb speech on the ground of communal hatred could be a "slippery slope" as its application in some cases could result in unwarranted interference with the freedom of speech. Therefore, a guarded and nuanced judicial approach is called for, and the instant case was a perfect example warranting such an exercise, he submitted.

During the hearing, Justice Indu Malhotra remarked that the statements of Mr. Chavhanke regarding the conspiracy to "capture" the bureaucracy were said in the context of certain statements made by Akbaruddin Owais , Abdul Rauf & Imran Pratapgarhi.

"Those are equally serious" - J Malhotra remarked.

Farasat explained that statement of Akbaruddin Owaisi was not problematic as per him.

Pratapgarhi used the word "capture", Farasat agreed. He adds it was used in the sense Justice Joseph observed on Sep 18 that many communities are eager to have their share in the 'pie of power'.

At the end of the arguments, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appreciated Farasat.

"Mr Farasat argued very well. I am elder to you, I can say so!", the SG said.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi also appeared on behalf of the National Broadcasters Federation and sought time to file an affidavit.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde appeared for Zakat Foundation India and also sought to make submissions later.

Senior Advocates Anoop Chaudhari, Mahesh Jethmalani & Advocates Gautam Bhatia and Shahrukh Alam also appeared in the case for intervenors.

The case will now be taken up for further consideration on September 23 at 2 PM.

A bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph was hearing the plea which alleged that the show 'Bindas Bol' hosted by Suresh Chavhanke, the Editor-in-Chief of Sudarshan News, was communalizing the entry of Muslims into the civil services.

On September 15, the top court had stayed the telecast of the show after making a prima facie observation that 'the object intent and the purpose of the show was to vilify the Muslim community'.

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