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इंडियन आवाज़     02 Oct 2020 12:00:11      انڈین آواز

Supreme Court stays telecast of Sudarshan TV show, that ‘vilify Muslims’

The programme, claimed by the channel in promos as a ‘big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service’, has been a centre of controversy.

AGENCIES / NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court today stayed the telecast of episodes of Sudarshan TV’s show ‘Bindas Bol’, saying at this stage, prima facie it does appear the programme “vilifies the Muslim community”.

Terming it as a “rabid programme”, the court also restrained Sudarshan TV from telecasting the programme today and tomorrow while adjourning the matter to September 17.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and KM Joseph expressed deep concern on use of power and reach of electronic media to attack a particular community as it heard a petition against a TV show by a private channel on the entry of Muslims in civil services.

“As the Supreme Court of this nation, we can’t allow you to say that Muslims are infiltrating civil services. We can’t tolerate this. No one can say journalists have absolute freedom to say anything,” observed the bench as it issued an interim order on staying the telecast of subsequent episodes of the programme.

The court restrained Sudarshan TV from telecasting two episodes of ‘Bindas Bol’ programme, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, saying it prime facie appears to vilify the Muslim community.

The bench was emphatic that such programmes that tend to show a particular community in bad light cannot go without scrutiny just by claiming the right to free speech and free press.

The court called out the channel, saying it might be doing a disservice to the nation by not accepting India is a melting point of diverse culture. “Your client needs to exercise his freedom with caution,” the bench told senior lawyer Shyam Divan who was appearing for the channel.

“It appears to the court that object of the programme is to vilify the Muslim community and make it responsible for an insidious attempt to infiltrate the civil services. We are duty bound to ensure adherence to the program code formed under Cable TV Act,” said the bench in its order. It added that the edifice of a stable democratic society and observance of constitutional rights and duties is based on coexistence of communities. “Any attempt to vilify a community must be viewed with disfavour,” it said.

The court was of the view that electronic media, because of its huge access, can become a focal point for destabilising the nation by targeting particular communities, and so certain standards should guide them.

“Reputations can be damaged, images can be tarnished. How to control this? State cannot do this. This is a very difficult area of regulation undoubtedly, but we are trying to spread a wider auspice of dialogue. Look at this program Solicitor, how rabid can it get? Targeting a community who are appearing for Civil services,” Justice Chandrachud asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

On his part, Justice KM Joseph said, “We need to look at the ownership of the visual media. Entire shareholding pattern of the company must be on site for the public. Revenue model of that company should also be put up to check if the government is putting more ads in one and less in another.

The court was hearing a petition by advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan who submitted that the programme contained statements that were derogatory about the entry of Muslims in the civil services. In the programme’s trailer, which was widely shared on social media platforms, the anchor and editor-in-chief of Sudarshan news, Suresh Chavhanke was seen questioning what he called was a sudden increase in the number of Muslims succeeding in IAS and IPS exams.

Chavhanke had asked about what the consequences would be if “Jihadis from Jamia (university)” would hold positions of authority and power like that of Collector and Secretary.

Khan submitted that expression of views were derogatory to a particular community, has a divisive potential and was in violation of programme code enumerated under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995.

Simultaneously, another petition on the same subject matter was heard by the Delhi high court ,which on August 28, stayed the telecast and asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to take a call on the matter. The ministry cleared the programme on September 10 while directing the channel to ensure that the show does not violate any programme code. Action would be taken as per the law if any violation was found, it said.

Subsequently, a fresh petition was filed before the high court which issued notice on the plea on September 11 but declined stay. Sudarshan News had then proceeded to telecast four episode of the show

Senior counsel Anoop Choudhari and advocate Shadan Farasat appearing on behalf of petitioners and intervenors submitted before the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the telecast violated the programme code and amounted to hate speech.

Farasat pointed out that the programme made false statements regarding relaxation being afforded to Muslim candidates with respect to upper age-limit and number of attempts available to take the exam.

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