Seven ex-bureaucrats move SC over Sudarshan News 'UPSC jihad' show, urge order on scope of hate speech

The Delhi HC earlier declined to stay the telecast of the series which claimed to 'expose the conspiracy of Muslims to infiltrate civil services'

Press Trust of India September 15, 2020 00:07:32 IST
Seven ex-bureaucrats move SC over Sudarshan News 'UPSC jihad' show, urge order on scope of hate speech

Supreme Court of India. PTI

New Delhi: Seven former civil servants have moved the Supreme Court to become parties to a pending plea seeking stay of telecast of Sudarshan TV's 'Bindas Bol' programme on the alleged "infiltration" of Muslims into the bureaucracy.

The Delhi High Court, on 11 September, had declined to stay the telecast of the series of programmes, whose promo had claimed that the channel would show the "big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service".

The former civil servants including Amitabha Pande and Navrekha Sharma have made an informal collective "Constitutional Conduct Group" and have filed the plea seeking to intervene in the pending petition of lawyer Firoz Iqbal Khan.

They said that the apex court should lay down an authoritative pronouncement on "hate speech" in view of the fact that it had expressed an intention to consider the balance between free speech and other constitutional values in the instant case.

The scope and meaning of hate speech should be decided so that the citizens, law enforcement authorities, and the courts have clarity on speech which is protected and the speech which falls outside such protection.

"There is no bright line between hate speech and offensive speech. Each case requires the application of judicial mind," it said.

Earlier, the bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and KM Joseph had 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 had said.

The apex court had issued notices to the Centre, Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association and Sudarshan News on a plea filed by advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan against the programme.

The top court, which has posted hearing on 15 September, had said that it will consider appointing amicus curiae to assist it towards a resolution which advances the protection of constitutional rights.

The Delhi High Court is hearing a separate plea filed by former and present students of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University challenging the nod given by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to Sudarshan News and its Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke to air the show.

The High Court has also issued notices to the Centre and others on the petition.

The High Court on 28 August had stayed the telecast of the programme which was scheduled the same evening.

On 29 August, it had disposed of the plea with a direction to the ministry to take a decision on the prohibition of the proposed Show pursuant to its August 28 show-cause notice.

Later, the government and the High Court allowed the telecast.

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