The Supreme Court continued the hearing of the Sudarshan News case on September 17 after it imposed an nterim stay on September 15 on broadcast of the rest of the programmes in the series on the show called “Bindaas Bol” which was airing from September 11. The topic of the show is “Naukarshahi me Muslamano ki Ghuspaith ke shadyantra ka bada khulasa” (The conspiracy behind Muslim infiltration in UPSC – The Big Reveal).
On the September 15 hearing the bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph had observed, “You cannot target one community and brand them a particular manner… This is an insidious attempt to malign a community… As a Supreme Court of the nation we cannot allow you to say that Muslims are infiltrating civil services. You cannot say that the journalist has absolute freedom doing this”.
In the following hearing today, the respondent came out all guns blazing with an affidavit in response, defending its show, calling it “investigative journalism to awaken the citizens and the government about anti-national and anti-social activities”. While that was expected, the Centre, in an unwarranted move, came in defence of electronic media and diverted the court’s attention to the freedom of expression on digital media.
LiveLaw reported that the petitioner sought time to go through the affidavits and the bench has made an exception for the case and will be hearing it tomorrow, September 18, even though it was not scheduled to sit, otherwise.
Sudarshan News defence
The affidavit filed by Suresh Chavhanke, the Editor-in Chief of Sudarshan News states 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”.
It was further stated that the term “UPSC Jihad” was used mainly because they came to know from sources that Zakat Foundation was receiving funds from terror-linked organisations and that the channel had approached Syed Zafar Mahmood, the founder of Zakat Foundation, to become a part of the debate but the same could not materialise. Thus, justifying the use of “UPSC jihad” and at the same time asserting that it tried to play neutral by giving the other party a chance to be heard.
The channel further said that questioning a community, simultaneously availing the benefits of religious minority and OBC schemes of affirmative action, cannot be regarded as communal. The channel further said that the programme should not be judged merely on the basis of some slides and all the ten episodes must be seen to understand the perspective which Chavhanke was trying to project.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting submitted that if the court decides to lay down guidelines with respect to regulation of hate speech in media, it should not do so without the appointment of an Amicus Curiae. The Centre also added that the Court should first consider laying out such guidelines with regard to digital media, instead of electronic and print media.
The Ministry further submitted that since the issue has already been discussed in the Parliament sufficiently, the directions in this petition should be confined only to Sudarshan News, as each case shall have to be decided on a case to case basis, and a broader exercise which is too general in nature is neither warranted nor permissible.
The case will reportedly be heard on September 18.
On August 28, the apex court refused to issue an injunction on the basis of an “unverified transcript of a 49 second clip” which was the promotional video of the show titled “Bindaas Bol”. The court had still noted that expression of views derogatory to a particular community had a “divisive potential” and that the petition had raised significant issues bearing on the protection of constitutional rights.
However, on the same day, Delhi High Court had granted stay on the broadcast of the show with directions to the Centre to make a decision in this regard. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued an order on September 9 allowing the broadcast of the show and from September 11 onwards, the show called “Bindaas Bol” was telecast on Sudarshan News. The topic of the show was “Naukarshahi me Muslamano ki Ghuspaith ke shadyantra ka bada khulasa” (The conspiracy behind Muslim infiltration in UPSC – The Big Reveal).
An intervention application has also been filed by 7 retired civil servants urging the court to give an authoritative meaning to “hate speech” so that the authorities implementing it receive clarity on what speech comes within its ambit. “The interpretative task before this Hon’ble Court therefore is to distinguish between speech that is merely offensive, indecorous or in bad taste [and therefore covered by Article 19(1)(a)] and hate speech that is rightly penalised by Articles 153A & B and the other provisions pointed out above,” the plea read.
This “UPSC Jihad” series has been running since September 11 and was slated to continue until September 20. However, with the Supreme Court order restraining broadcast, September 14 happens to be the last telecast of the show.
CJP’s complaint against Sudarshan News
CJP was the first organisation to act when we filed a complaint with the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) when the promotional video for the show Bindass Bol had first emerged. CJP complained against the deeply communal content of the promotional video of the show on ‘UPSC Jihad’, where the channel’s Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke alleged a conspiracy by Muslims to take over civil services in India. But NBSA forwarded our complaint to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting stating that since Sudarshan News was not a part of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) the NBSA could not take action against it.
SC restrains Sudarshan News from telecasting “UPSC Jihad” show, calls it ‘insidious’
Retired civil servants move SC; seek authoritative meaning of ‘hate speech’
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