Text: On October 26, 2020 the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta told the three Judge Bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee of the Supreme Court that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting are prepared to release its order on the various complaints against Sudarshan News’ show called Bindas Bol in the matter of Firoz Iqbal Khan v Union of India.
The Solicitor General submitted before the Bench that the order can be served on the parties tomorrow, that is October 27.
This matter was heard before the Supreme Court after it was adjourned on October 5. On the previous hearing date of October 5, the Central Government had told the court that it had issued a notice to the channel on complaints of violations under the Program Code. The Centre told the Apex Court that it had issued a fresh show-cause notice to Sudarshan News and an inter-ministerial committee had been set up to watch the episodes so as to make recommendations.
From September 11 to 14, the “UPSC Jihad” show was allowed to run for four episodes as the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had allowed the telecast by observing that it was not possible to come to a conclusion on the violation of the Program Code before the episodes were actually telecasted. While disposing of the complaint, the Centre had then asked Sudarshan TV to ensure that the episodes did not violate the Program Code.
On September 15, the Supreme Court through a 3 Judge Bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph had stayed the broadcast of the remaining show after taking a prima facie view that the tenor of the show was communal in nature. “At this stage, prima facie, it does appear to the Court that the intent, object and purpose of the episodes which have been telecast is to vilify the Muslim community. An insidious attempt has been made to insinuate that the community is involved in a conspiracy to infiltrate the civil services. Several statements in the episodes, which have been drawn to the attention of the Court are not just palpably erroneous but have been made in wanton disregard of the truth. There is no relaxation either in the age limit or in the number of attempts available to the Muslim community in the civil services. The drift, tenor and content of the episodes is to bring the community into public hatred and disrepute”, the Bench noted.
Justice Chandrachud had asked the Solicitor General if anyone from the Ministry applied their mind to the four episodes of the show telecast from September 11 to 14, after the Ministry allowed its telecast. ‘The programme would have been over by now if the Court had not intervened”, Justice Chandrachud had remarked on September 23 at a subsequent hearing.
Sudarshan News was asked to file an affidavit explaining how they would assuage the court’s concerns in this matter. Sudarshan News TV in its 91-page long affidavit had claimed that it is doing “investigative journalism to awaken the citizens and the government about anti-national and anti-social activities”. Mr. Suresh Chavhanke, the Editor-in-Chief of the Channel who submitted the affidavit on its behalf, further asserted that he has no ill-will against any community or individual and that there was no there is no statement or message in the four episodes broadcast that members of a particular community should not join UPSC.
The matter has now been slated to be heard on November 19, 2020.