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SC restrains Sudarshan TV from telecasting two episodes of ‘Bindas Bol’ programme

The bench told Divan, “We expect some kind of restraint from your client (Sudarshan TV)”. Senior advocate Anoop G Chaudhary, appearing for the petitioner, said that the Delhi High Court had referred the matter to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry but the ministry did not pass a reasoned order.

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 15-09-2020 18:35 IST | Created: 15-09-2020 18:09 IST
SC restrains Sudarshan TV from telecasting two episodes of ‘Bindas Bol’ programme
Representative Image Image Credit: ANI

The Supreme Court Tuesday restrained Sudarshan TV from telecasting two episodes of 'Bindas Bol' program, which are scheduled for today and tomorrow, saying it prima facie appears to"vilify" the Muslim community. "At this stage, prima facie it does appear that the program does vilify the Muslim community," the apex court said while staying the telecast of two episodes of the program on alleged infiltration of Muslims into the bureaucracy. A three-judge bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud, which was hearing a plea that raised grievance over the program, said it would hear the matter on September 17.

The bench, also comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph, suggested that a committee can be appointed to help in self-regulating the electronic media. "We believe that we may appoint a committee of five distinguished citizens who can come up with certain standards for the electronic media. We don't want any politically divisive nature and we need members who are of commendable stature," the bench said.

The counsel appearing for the petitioner has sought reliefs, including an injunction on the broadcasting of the program whose promo had claimed that channel would show the 'big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service'. The bench, which said it is necessary to hear the matter further, observed that the court is duty-bound to preserve the "salutary principles" It referred to the Cable TV rules and said that "defamatory, false and reflective of half-truth and innuendos" must not be shown. The bench said that pending further orders, the channel is "injuncted from making any more broadcasts on this subject on any other name too".

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Sudarshan TV, told the bench that the channel considered it as an investigative story on national security and the program has 10 episodes. "There is a whole regime of consequences if the channel has done any wrong in the program, but I feel that there is no deviation from Broadcasting rules," Divan said.

Referring to an earlier order of the apex court in the matter, Divan argued that it was rightly said that there cannot be a pre-telecast ban on the program. "We will sit day after tomorrow and in the meantime, you don't broadcast the episode today," the bench suggested during the hearing. Divan opposed it and said, "this is a case of foreign funding and I must say that if the telecast is stalled then I will raise the issue of press freedom".

The bench observed that regulating the internet is very difficult but there is a need to regulate the electronic media now. "Most of the channels are running for the TRPs," the bench observed.

There should be some kind of self-regulation in the media, the apex court said while raising questions over the program. "Look at this program, how rabid is this program that one community is entering into civil services," the bench observed.

"See how insinuating is the subject of this program that Muslims have infiltrated the services and this puts the examinations of UPSC under scanner without any factual basis," said the bench. "Such insidious charges also put a question mark on the UPSC exams. Aspersions have been cast on UPSC. Such allegations without any factual basis, how can this be allowed? Can such programs be allowed in a free society," it said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the top court that freedom of journalist is supreme and it would be disastrous for any democracy to control the press. During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, the bench said, "We are not suggesting some kind of censorship on media but there should be some kind of self-regulation in media".

"The point is this that the right of the media is on behalf of the citizens only and it's not an exclusive right of the media," the bench said, adding, "Electronic media has become more powerful than print media and we have not been supportive of a pre-broadcast ban". Mehta told the bench that there should be some kind of self-regulation but the freedom of journalists has to be maintained.

He also referred to some foreign judgments on freedom of speech and expression. The bench told Divan, "We expect some kind of restraint from your client (Sudarshan TV)".

Senior advocate Anoop G Chaudhary, appearing for the petitioner, said that the Delhi High Court had referred the matter to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry but the ministry did not pass a reasoned order. He said the ministry allowed the broadcast and did not hear the other side and simply took the statement of the channel that it would follow the broadcasting rules.

On August 28, the top court had refused to impose a pre-broadcast ban on Sudarshan TV from telecasting 'Bindas Bol' program, whose promo claimed that the channel was all set to broadcast a 'big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service'. It had issued notice to the Centre, the Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association, and Sudarshan News on a plea filed by advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan who has raised grievance of the program.

The apex court had said that prima facie, the petition raises significant issues bearing on the protection of constitutional rights. The Delhi High Court, on September 11, had declined to stay the telecast of the series of programs...


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