SC refuses to impose pre-broadcast ban on TV programme claiming 'Muslim conspiracy' to infiltrate UPSC

A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and KM Joseph said it has to first circumspect in imposing a prior restraint on publication or the airing of views by Sudarshan TV

Press Trust of India August 29, 2020 00:34:21 IST
SC refuses to impose pre-broadcast ban on TV programme claiming 'Muslim conspiracy' to infiltrate UPSC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday refused to impose pre-broadcast ban on Sudarshan TV from telecasting 'Bindas Bol' programme, whose latest promo claimed that the channel was all set to broadcast a 'big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service'.

A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and KM Joseph said it has to first circumspect in imposing a prior restraint on publication or the airing of views.

At this stage, we have desisted from imposing a pre-broadcast interlocutory injunction on the basis of an unverified transcript of a forty-nine seconds clip. The Court has to be circumspect in imposing a prior restraint on publication or the airing of views.

We note that under statutory provisions, competent authorities are vested with powers to ensure compliance with law, including provisions of the criminal law intended to ensure social harmony and the peaceful coexistence of all communities, the bench said.

The apex court issued notice to Centre, Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association and Sudarshan News on a plea filed by an advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan with a grievance pertaining to a programme scheduled for broadcast today at 8 pm.

Having regard to the importance of the issues which arise from the petition under Article 32, we direct that notice be issued to the respondents, returnable on September 15, 2020.

On the next date of listing, the court will consider appointing amicus curiae to assist it towards a resolution which advances the protection of constitutional rights, the bench said.

The apex court said that prima facie, the petition raises significant issues bearing on the protection of constitutional rights.

Consistent with the fundamental right to free speech and expression, the Court will need to foster a considered a debate on the setting up of standards of self-regulation, the apex court said.

Together with free speech, there are other constitutional values which need to be balanced and preserved including the fundamental right to equality and fair treatment for every segment of citizens, the top court said.

The petitioner has relied on the transcript of a clip of forty-nine seconds which according to counsel was aired on the television channel in the course of the last week.

The contention of the petitioner is that the clip contains statements which are derogatory of the entry of Muslims in the civil services.

The counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner submitted that the airing of views in the course of the programme would violate the Programme Code enumerated under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995, together with the Code of Ethics and News Broadcasting Standards Regulations.

During the course of the hearing, it has been highlighted that the expression of views derogatory to a particular community has a divisive potential.

In the viral clip, channel's Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke had alleged a conspiracy in the "overwhelming" number of Muslim students clearing the Union Public Service Commission exams and was scheduled to broadcast big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service'.

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