Delhi HC stays broadcast of Sudarshan News show claiming 'infiltration of Muslims' in UPSC

The Delhi HC issued notices to the Centre, the UPSC, Suresh Chavhanke and listed the matter for hearing on 7 September

FP Staff August 28, 2020 19:09:54 IST
Delhi HC stays broadcast of Sudarshan News show claiming 'infiltration of Muslims' in UPSC

The Delhi High Court on Friday stayed the broadcast of a show by Sudarshan channel on the "infiltration of Muslims" in the civil services, after controversy erupted over a clip promoting the show. The editor of the channel, however, claimed his show was only raising questions about the "bias" in the selection process, adding that people should make up their mind after watching the show.

A single judge bench of Justice Navin Chawla issued notices to the Centre, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Sudarshan News, and its editor in chief, Suresh Chavhanke. The next hearing in the matter is on 7 September.

In the petition filed by students and alumni of the Jamia Milia Islamia university, petitioners said that the show "sought to defame, attack and incite hatred against Jamia Milia Islamia, its alumni and the Muslim community at large," The Leaflet reported. The report added that the show carried the hashtag 'UPSC Jihad'.

The plea added that Chavhanke had "openly incited his target non-Muslim audience by fear-mongering that "jihadis" or terrorists from Jamia Millia Islamia would soon hold positions of authority and power like that of Collector and Secretary."

Petitioners also said that the content "constitutes hate speech and criminal defamation in terms of Sections 153A(1), 153B(1), 295A and 499 of Indian Penal Code," Bar and Bench reported.

The show, which was promoted as an 'expose' and was scheduled to air on Friday night, was condemned by alumni of the university and several public figures, including serving and retired IAS officers. They criticised the show for its insinuation against the minority community.

The IPS Association, the central body of the Indian Police Service officers, reacted strongly saying, "A news story targeting candidates in civil services on the basis of religion is being promoted by Sudarshan TV. We condemn the communal and irresponsible piece of journalism."

The Indian Police Foundation, an independent think-tank bringing together the police and citizens to work for police reforms and scientific policing, also tweeted that the "hate story" "against minority candidates joining IAS/IPS is dangerous bigotry".

The foundation further said it hoped that the News Broadcasting Standards Authority, the Uttar Pradesh Police and other concerned government authorities would take strict action.

Several people tweeted their opposition against the promotional clip, which also appeared to raise questions about a coaching centre run by Jamia Millia Islamia for IAS aspirants.

Jamia Millia Islamia PRO Ahmed Azeem said, "We have written to the Education Ministry informing about the whole episode and requested them to take appropriate action. We told them that the Sudarshan Channel has not only tried to tarnish the image of JMI and a particular community but the image of UPSC also."
Bahujan Samaj Party's Lok Sabha MP Kunwar Danish Ali, an alumni of Jamia Millia Islamia, said the educational institution has played a leading role in nation-building before and after Independence.

A number of serving and retired civil service officers also condemned the video posted by the channel.

IPS officer Niharika Bhatt slammed the video, saying it was a "despicable attempt at hate mongering".

"To question the credentials of officers on the basis of religion is not only laughable, but should also be dealt with strictest legal provisions. We are all Indians first," she said.

Retired IPS officer NC Asthana said, "By casting doubts on the integrity and impartiality of a constitutional body like the UPSC in the selection of officers for All-India Services, he is spreading disaffection for the constitutional scheme of governance."

IPS officer RK Vij said it was "disgusting" and "condemnable", and must be stopped.

Before the Delhi high court's stay order on the show, PTI quoted Chavhanke as saying that he would go ahead with the programme as scheduled. He had also alleged that the issue was being twisted by the IPS Association.

He added that the issue was the "sudden spike in the number of people of certain categories selected in UPSC" examinations in the last few years. He also urged people to watch the episode first and then react.

Chavhanke also said he was not saying anything against the serving IAS or IPS officers and his show was only raising questions about the "bias and conspiracy" in the selection process.

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