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SC restrains Sudarshan TV from broadcasting controversial show

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Justice Chandrachud opined that a committee should be made of five distinguished citizens of commendable nature to formulate certain standards to be followed by the electronic media

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today made some strong observations while restricting news channel Sudarshan TV from telecasting the remaining 5 episodes of its show ‘Bindas Bol’ that talks about Muslims who get through the UPSC exam until further orders. 

A three-judge bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K.M. Joseph heard a plea filed against the channel for its controversial programme that was publicised as being an expose on the conspiracy regarding Muslims infiltrating government service. The court had previously refused to impose a pre-broadcast ban, but had issued notices to the Central government, Sudarshan News, Press Council of India and News Broadcasters Association. 

Justice Chandrachud observed that it appears that the program’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. 

Justice Chandrachud 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.

With reference to the episodes of the show that have already been telecast, Justice Chandrachud observed that they reveal the nature and objective of the programme. 

He opined that a committee should be made consisting of five distinguished citizens of commendable nature to formulate certain standards to be followed by the electronic media.

Sudarshan TV

Justice Joseph observed that the Media can’t fall foul of standards prescribed by themselves. He expressed concern towards the way debates are organised by channels where the anchor speaks most of the time and even mute the panelists. 

During the hearing, Senior Advocate Anoop Chaudhari, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that it is a prima facie case of violation of law where they say Muslims are infiltrating the Civil Services and Muslim OBCs are eating the share of other OBCs and have also used unfortunate words for Muslims. The Delhi High Court had also issued notice on the plea challenging the green signal given by I&B ministry.

“The anchor’s grievance is that a particular group is gaining entry into civil services. How insidious is this? Such insidious charges also put a question mark on the UPSC exams. Aspersions have been cast on UPSC. Such allegations are without any factual basis, how can this be allowed? Can such programs be allowed in a free society?”

Justice Chandrachud remarked. 

SG Mehta submitted that that freedom of the journalist is supreme and it would be disastrous for any democracy to control press. There is also a parallel media other than electronic media where journalists with a laptop can have lakhs of people viewing their content. 

Justice Chandrachud responded to Mehta’s submission, saying that we cannot choose to not regulate one thing just because we cannot regulate everything. He said that the power of electronic media is huge and it can become a focal point of targeting particular communities or groups. 

Talking about journalistic freedom, Justice Joseph also observed that journalistic freedom is not absolute. A journalist shares the same freedom as any other citizens and there is no separate freedom for journalists like in the United States. Therefore journalists who are fair in their debates are needed. 

Justice Chandrachud also made observations regarding the importance of having some regulating standards for television news channels, as reach of TV is more than newspapers, where people may not read newspapers but they do watch television. Watching TV has an entertainment value which newspapers don’t which is why there’s a need to have some standards. 

Advocate Shadan Farasat submitted that the show has completely vilified the image of Muslims in civil services and have even been called a terror. As per the program code and Section 20 and Section 19 of the Cable Television Networks Act programmes that creates communal disharmony or targets a particular community are banned. 

Read Also: 7 ex-civil servants protesting Sudarshan TV show, want to intervene in case

Advocate Shahrukh Alam Sudarshan on behalf of one of the intervenors submitted that the show is spreading the idea against Muslims in civil services in a very concerted way. When the channel sought opinion from people regarding the program, a young child sent a video saying that he has taken a pledge against anti nationals and become like the show’s anchor, and such videos are being used as promotional content by the channel. 

Read Also: SC grants protection to ex-Punjab DGP Saini in Multani murder case

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan opposed the Court’s suggestion of deferring the programme’s broadcast till the next hearing, and stated that there cannot be a pre-broadcast ban. The nature of the shown is that of an investigative story and considers the issue at hand as one of national security and is in public interest and there is also an enormous amount of funding from abroad.

Read the order here;

18235-2020-34-20-23979-Order-15-Sep-2020

– India Legal Bureau

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