New Delhi: Following Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informing the Supreme Court that the I&B ministry has issued a show-cause notice on Sudarshan TV, the court today deferred the hearing of the case. The government notice was under the Cable Television Act 1995 and issued to the MD of Sudarshan Channel. The channel has been given time till September 28 to respond.
A three-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph adjourned the hearing to October 1. The hearing is about the plea against the channel’s programme which allegedly had derogatory statements about how Muslims have “infiltrated” the Indian civil services.
The court, taking note of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s submission that the central government has in exercise of power by 20(3) of Cable TV Act 1995 issued a notice to show cause to Sudarshan channel, found it appropriate to list the case for further hearing on October 1. The notice will be dealt with in accordance with law and the Central government has been asked to submit a report to the court indicating outcome of this notice. The interim orders including the stay on telecast of the show will continue.
The Solicitor General had suggested that the court may defer these proceedings till the I&B Ministry takes a final decision on the show cause notice sent to Sudarshan TV. The suggestion was not opposed by any other counsel.
Senior Advocate Anoop Chaudhari, however, stated that if the hearing is adjourned then the interim orders against the telecast of the show should continue. SG Mehta agreed.
In response to Advocate Gautam Bhatia’s concern that this case has issues which need to be decided, Justice Chandrachud stated that the decision of the Central government will not conclude the matter.
Justice Chandrachud asked Mehta if the Central government will allow the petitioners in this case to make submissions before the statutory authority.
Mehta submitted that petitioners won’t be allowed to make submissions before the statutory authority, as there will be no departure from the statutory framework and this will form a precedent. He added that Government will take the call of hearing a party of it deems necessary and no order from the court is required.
The apex court in its previous hearing had made some strong observations while restricting news channel Sudarshan TV from telecasting the remaining episodes of its show ‘Bindas Bol’ that talks about about Muslims who get through the UPSC exam until further orders.
Justice Chandrachud had observed that it appears that the programme’s object is to vilify the Muslim community and make it responsible for an insidious attempt to infiltrate the civil services. The court is bound by its duty to ensure that the Cable TV Act and the programme code under it are adhered to. He had also stated that the edifice of a stable democratic society and observance of constitutional rights and duties is based on coexistence of communities, and any attempt to vilify a community must be viewed with disfavour.