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Tablighi Jamaat case: CJI says there is an attempt to give communal colour to news, it’s a problem

The SC heard a batch of petitions against certain news channels for spreading fake news, linking the spread of Covid-19 with the Nizamuddin Markaz event in 2020

Sabrangindia 02 Sep 2021

Tablighi jamaat

The Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana has made some strong remarks against news portals and media channels on a petition filed by Jamiat Ulama I Hind and the Peace Party linked to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering last year in New Delhi that was blamed for the spike in Covid-19 infection.

Bar & Bench quoted the CJI saying, “There is an attempt to give communal colour to news and that is the problem. it ultimately brings a bad name to country….I have not come across any public channel, Twitter, Facebook or Youtube .. they never respond to us and there is no accountability, about the institutions they have written badly about and they don't respond and say this is their right.”

The CJI also expressed his dissatisfaction when the Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta asked for more time to file some applications in this regard. “The case docket shows you have taken four adjournments to file an affidavit Mr Mehta,” CJI Ramana reportedly said. He also expressed his concern over not having a regulatory mechanism set up by the government to monitor web portals.

“Is the regulatory commission appointed? You (government) had said it will be appointed last time," he reportedly said according to Bar & Bench, adding, "If you go to YouTube you can see how much fake news is there…web portals are not governed by anything. For press and TV, there are regulatory mechanisms!”

The Bench, also consisting of Justice Surya Kant said, “Web portals only listen to powerful voices and write anything against judges, institutions without any accountability. Web portals only worry about powerful men and not judges, institutions or common people. That is our experience.”

The SG tried to explain the issue to the Bench by stating that the new Information Technology rules, 2021 are intended to address these issues. Tushar Mehta added that the IT Rules have been challenged before various High Courts and the Central Government has filed a petition to transfer all of them to the Supreme Court. The court has agreed to list the central government’s transfer petitions on IT Rules along with the present batch of petitions and the matter will come up for hearing after 6 weeks.

Last year, when the Centre had filed an affidavit in this matter, the Supreme Court had pulled up the government that defended the media by saying that the petitioner had not listed any instance of “bad reporting”. The then CJI SA Bobde had reportedly orally remarked, “You cannot treat this court the way you are treating it. Some junior officer has filed the affidavit. Your affidavit is evasive and says the petitioner shows no instance of bad reporting. You may not agree but how can you say there is no instance of bad reporting shown?”

Large sections of the media had coined terms like “super spreaders” and “anti-nationals” to call out the Tablighi Jamaat attendees. Several of them were booked under the Epidemic Act and jailed. Other media houses had also engaged in ‘investigative reports’ on how ‘Madrasa hotspots’ were places where children were deliberately cooped up in close quarters, thereby placing their health in danger. The focus was only on “Muslim educational institutes,” ignoring other institutes like orphanages, old age homes, shelter homes that were open and running, housing several people during the lockdown. In fact, CJP had moved NBSA against this communally inflammatory reportage.

Over the last year, several attendees have been acquitted of all charges and have had the FIRs against them quashed. In some orders, the courts have also recognised that they were maliciously prosecuted. Read more about it in this SabrangIndia report.

Related:

Tablighi Jamaat case: SC slams Centre for ‘extremely offensive and brazen’ response

Media coverage on Covid-19, anti-CAA protests, prejudiced: Report

How courts rescued the Tablighi Jamaat from further hatred

CJP moves NBSA against India Today’s communal sting operation on Madrasas

Tablighi Jamaat case: CJI says there is an attempt to give communal colour to news, it’s a problem

The SC heard a batch of petitions against certain news channels for spreading fake news, linking the spread of Covid-19 with the Nizamuddin Markaz event in 2020

Tablighi jamaat

The Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana has made some strong remarks against news portals and media channels on a petition filed by Jamiat Ulama I Hind and the Peace Party linked to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering last year in New Delhi that was blamed for the spike in Covid-19 infection.

Bar & Bench quoted the CJI saying, “There is an attempt to give communal colour to news and that is the problem. it ultimately brings a bad name to country….I have not come across any public channel, Twitter, Facebook or Youtube .. they never respond to us and there is no accountability, about the institutions they have written badly about and they don't respond and say this is their right.”

The CJI also expressed his dissatisfaction when the Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta asked for more time to file some applications in this regard. “The case docket shows you have taken four adjournments to file an affidavit Mr Mehta,” CJI Ramana reportedly said. He also expressed his concern over not having a regulatory mechanism set up by the government to monitor web portals.

“Is the regulatory commission appointed? You (government) had said it will be appointed last time," he reportedly said according to Bar & Bench, adding, "If you go to YouTube you can see how much fake news is there…web portals are not governed by anything. For press and TV, there are regulatory mechanisms!”

The Bench, also consisting of Justice Surya Kant said, “Web portals only listen to powerful voices and write anything against judges, institutions without any accountability. Web portals only worry about powerful men and not judges, institutions or common people. That is our experience.”

The SG tried to explain the issue to the Bench by stating that the new Information Technology rules, 2021 are intended to address these issues. Tushar Mehta added that the IT Rules have been challenged before various High Courts and the Central Government has filed a petition to transfer all of them to the Supreme Court. The court has agreed to list the central government’s transfer petitions on IT Rules along with the present batch of petitions and the matter will come up for hearing after 6 weeks.

Last year, when the Centre had filed an affidavit in this matter, the Supreme Court had pulled up the government that defended the media by saying that the petitioner had not listed any instance of “bad reporting”. The then CJI SA Bobde had reportedly orally remarked, “You cannot treat this court the way you are treating it. Some junior officer has filed the affidavit. Your affidavit is evasive and says the petitioner shows no instance of bad reporting. You may not agree but how can you say there is no instance of bad reporting shown?”

Large sections of the media had coined terms like “super spreaders” and “anti-nationals” to call out the Tablighi Jamaat attendees. Several of them were booked under the Epidemic Act and jailed. Other media houses had also engaged in ‘investigative reports’ on how ‘Madrasa hotspots’ were places where children were deliberately cooped up in close quarters, thereby placing their health in danger. The focus was only on “Muslim educational institutes,” ignoring other institutes like orphanages, old age homes, shelter homes that were open and running, housing several people during the lockdown. In fact, CJP had moved NBSA against this communally inflammatory reportage.

Over the last year, several attendees have been acquitted of all charges and have had the FIRs against them quashed. In some orders, the courts have also recognised that they were maliciously prosecuted. Read more about it in this SabrangIndia report.

Related:

Tablighi Jamaat case: SC slams Centre for ‘extremely offensive and brazen’ response

Media coverage on Covid-19, anti-CAA protests, prejudiced: Report

How courts rescued the Tablighi Jamaat from further hatred

CJP moves NBSA against India Today’s communal sting operation on Madrasas

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