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Supreme Court expresses grave concern over fake news shown by some media houses, web portals without any accountability

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The Supreme Court today expressed its grave concern over the fake news shown by some media houses and web portals, without any accountability, while saying they only worry about powerful men, not judges, institutions or common people.

The Court observed this in the backdrop of a petition filed against the communalisation of the Nizamuddin Markaz by certain sections of print and electronic media last year, when it was blamed for the Covid spike in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

The three-judges bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice A.S. Bopanna has allowed amendment of prayer by petitioner and directed him to serve the copies to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also prayed before the Bench to consider the Transfer petitions akin to Web Portals, Media Regulations.

Facebook,YouTube and other social media, they don’t respond to us: CJI Ramana

The Chief Justice N.V.Ramana said, “Facebook, YouTube and other social media, they don’t respond to us. Forget about individuals. No accountability is being taken who publish such things for the institution.” He said that he has not seen any public channel, or twitter to come forward and make any kind of response. They do not worry about judges, but only worry about powerful men.

During the hearing today, SG Mehta said to the Bench, “Your lordship, Detail affidavit is filed and such is filed by Secretary. There was other matter and in the booklet containing dos and don’ts.”

CJ– “There is no Counter Affidavit from union of India. One is proferred on behalf from Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and one from Press Council of India.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde –“I will take out the amendments, grant me 4 weeks time.”

Nisha Bhambhani for News Broadcasting Association submitted, “We have challenged amendment rules 2021 and obtained order from Kerala High Court of no coercive action to be taken against them.”

SG said, “The contest between freedom of speech and rights of citizens so that to ensure no uncovered news should be disseminated to the public.” “There are rules framed & one court has granted stay & the Top court is seized of transfer petition,” he added.

CJI replied, “Web portal I’m not aware of. If you see on YouTube, so much is shown in a minute. Is there any mechanism to tackle this?”

SG – “Yes, we have laid down mechanisms in the Rules. We have a statutory mechanism under the Cable TV Act. For web portals, we have a separate set of rules. There are three layers – self regulatory layer, interference layer etc.”

Sr. Adv Hegde seconds SG’s submission and says it’s correct. There are rules for web portals & the UOI has filed Transfer Petitions.

CJI: These web portals, they don’t even reply.

Sr Adv Hegde: I am a victim itself. I was blocked by one of the channels and I approached the Delhi High Court. There, they say that my Writ is not amenable.

Bench to Sanjay Hegde, You filed suit then? (on a lighter note)

SG requests for listing the matter related to IT Rules next week. He further says that these rules have been challenged in various HCs & orders are being passed.

The bench ordered: “Counsel for petitioner seeks time to amend the prayer & four weeks granted to amend plea & time granted to file counter. Serve a copy to SGI. SG is at liberty to file rejoinder.”

 CJI: “As far as transfer plea is concerned, let the same be listed along with this petition.”

Sections of media reported Nizamuddin incident with a communal favour, says Jamiat-Ulama-i–Hind plea

The Court was hearing the plea filed by Jamiat-Ulama-i–Hind seeking directions to prevent the communalization of the Nizamuddin Markaz issue by certain sections of the print and electronic media posing a threat to the life and liberty of Muslims and infringing their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The petition highlighted the Delhi riots which took place in February 2020. While the State was recovering from the said riots and the relief work was ongoing, the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic led to declaration of a nationwide lockdown.

The petition filed through Advocate Ejaz Maqbool further states that certain sections of the media have reported the Nizamuddin incident with a communal favour and have used phrases such as “Corona Jihad, Corona Terrorism, Islamic Insurrection, Corona bombs etc” thus making it apparent that the unfortunate incident of the Tablighi Jamat was being used to demonize and blame the entire Muslim community.

The Petition further stated that such reporting has triggered communal antagonism and religious hatred thus disturbing communal harmony in the country. It alleged, “That the state had failed to check communalization of content by media and by not taking action against such unsocial elements. The state had failed in its duty to give equal protection of law to all persons in India under Article 14 of the Constitution.”

Also Read: Dying declaration enough to prove guilt of accused: Kerala High Court

It was pointed out that the actions of certain sections of media are against the letter and spirit of the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards issued by the News Broadcasters association which is the regulatory body for news channels. Also, such reporting is also in violation of Rule 6 of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 which prohibits any programme which contains attack on religious communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes.

It sought directions from court to the Central Government to stop the dissemination of fake news and take strict action against the sections of the media spreading bigotry and communal hatred in relation to the Nizamuddin Markaz issue. Also, sought direction to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to identify and take strict action against sections of the media who are communalizing the issue against the letter and spirit, issued by it with the directions of the Supreme Court.

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