- Apprentice Lawyer
- Legal Jobs
The Court also called for the setting up of a committee of five citizens who can come up with standards for electronic media.
The Supreme Court today directed Sudarshan TV to defer the broadcast of its programme touted as a ''big expose on the conspiracy" regarding Muslims "infiltrating government service", until further orders.
The Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph took up the matter for hearing today after earlier refusing to impose a pre-broadcast ban on the controversial programme.
Reads the order
The Court also called for the setting up of a committee of five citizens who can come up with standards for electronic media. It said,
"We don't want any persons of politically divisive nature and we need members who are are of commendable stature."
Appearing for the petitioners, Senior Advocate Anoop George Chaudhari informed the Court that there were only 292 Muslims in the services at present. He said,
“If you read the transcript you will see that they say Muslims are infiltrating the civil services. They say how Muslim OBCs are eating the share of other OBCs.The show has graphs they have used words like "ha***** gaddar" in the show. Very unfortunate words.”
At this point, Justice Chandrachud noted that the petition prays for guidelines on how media show report some issues. He made it clear,
"We are not saying states will impose any such guidelines as it would be an anathema to Article 19 (1)(a)."
Justice Joseph made an important observation that the ownership of media channels must be disclosed.
Justice KM Joseph
Justice Joseph also took note of the manner in which debates are conducted on news channels.
"...in debates, one needs to see the role of the anchor. How one listens when others speak...check in the TV debates the percentage of time taken by anchor to speak. They mute the speaker and ask questions."
On the topic of the Sudarshan TV broadcast itself, Justice Chandrachud observed,
"The anchor’s grievance is that a particular group is gaining entry into civil services. How insidious is this? Such insidious charges also put a question mark on the UPSC exams. Aspersions have been cast on UPSC. Such allegations are without any factual basis, how can this be allowed? Can such programs be allowed in a free society?"
The Court went on to ask,
"Shouldn't there be enforceable standards that the media profess itself to so that Article 19(1)(a) is upheld?"
In response, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said,
"Freedom of the journalist is supreme. There are two aspects of the statements by Justice Joseph. It would be disastrous for any democracy to control the press.
Justice Joseph's concerns have to be addressed by giving respect to journalistic freedom. There are large number of web portals whose ownership is different than what they show."
Justice Joseph replied,
"When we talk about journalistic freedom, it is not absolute. He shares same freedom as other citizens. There is no separate freedom for journalists like in the US. We need journalists who are fair in their debates."
Justice Chandrachud then said,
"Let the best within the nation suggest measures which we can help debate on our platform and then arrive at standards...now an anchor is targeting one particular community. To say we are a democracy we need to have certain standards in place."
When Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Sudarshan TV, sought some time to reply, Justice Chandrachud said,
On resuming from the lunch break, Justice Chandrachud asked Advocate Nisha Bhambhani, appearing for the News Broadcasters Association,
"We need to ask you if you exist apart from the letter head. What do you do when a parallel criminal investigation goes on in the media and reputation is tarnished?"
SG Mehta then said,
"For example, (Advocate) Gautam Bhatia writes something to which I dont agree. I want to settle scores and I come out with a nasty piece to which he does not respond. Then how can your lordship regulate?"
Justice Chandrachud replied,
"But that cannot be compared to profit making entities. Intellectual blog on academic interests is very different than such organizations."
Justice Joseph pointed out that Rule 6 of the Programme Code notes that cable TV programs cannot show anything that targets a particular religion or a community.
Later, Advocate Shadan Farasat, appearing for the petitioners, stated,
"This show has completely vilified the image of Muslims in civil services. They have beem called a terror. Hate speech is something where the right to respond is not possible. How does one respond to a statement that Muslims should not be in civil services?"
Divan then sought two weeks' time to respond to the plea. However, he refused to concede to deferring the broadcast of the remaining episodes till then. When Chandrachud J asked Divan what the essence of the show was, he replied,
"They perceive it to be an investigative story and consider it a national security issue and in public interest. There is enormous amount of funding from abroad which is proving to be not friendly for India. They believe that it is their duty to inform the citizens about it."
To this, Justice Joseph replied,
"By the time you finish two weeks, the show will be over. Government asked you not to violate the program code. What is the penalty?"
Counsel for the intervenors made their arguments, after which Farasat sought to share his screen to show the Bench clips of the programme titled 'Bindaas Bol'.
After watching the clip, the Court directed Sudarshan TV to defer the broadcast of its remaining episodes till September 17, when the matter will be heard next.
Divan strongly protested against this, saying,
"There cannot be a pre-broadcast ban. We already have four broadcasts so we know the theme. If this is a prior restraint order, then I have to argue. There is a clear link on funds from abroad."
Chandrachud J responded,
"We are concerned that when you say students who are part of Jamia Millia Islamia are part of a group to infiltrate civil services...we can't tolerate."
Justice DY Chandrachud
Divan sought to contend that nothing has changed between the Court's previous order and today.
"There is no departure in facts and law since August 28. On September 9, Centre holds and directs me to the program code. If i violate it, then I will be held accountable. One frame here and one frame there cannot summarize the whole show."
Chandrachud J then asked SG Mehta whether the Union Ministry for Information & Broadcasting had applied its mind while allowing the episodes released on September 11 and 14, after giving the green signal for the airing of the programme on September 9. Mehta said he would take instructions on this.
Advocate Gautam Bhatia went on to submit,
"Our main point in the IA is that there needs to be certain standard to judge hate speech. Here in this case, a community is being vilified. To that extent that they are not being able to respond. In this case, the pre-telecast restraint parameter is different."
After hearing the parties, the Court noted in its order,
"Situation from pre-broadcast ban stage has changed. Petitioners submit that fake news have been shown in the program and screenshots from the program and transcripts have been shown to state that program states its a conspiracy to infiltrate civil service… It has been argued that program has become a focal point of hate speech in the country...
…it appears to the court that object of the program is to vilify the Muslim community and make it responsible for an insidious attempt to infiltrate the civil services. We are duty bound to ensure adherence to the Programme Code formed under Cable TV Act...
...edifice of a stable democratic society and observance of constitutional rights and duties is based on co-existence of communities. Any attempt to vilify a community must be viewed with disfavour. We are of the view that there is a change in circumstances...
...episodes broadcasted till now show nature and objective of the program. Pending further orders of the Court, Sudarshan News stands injuncted from making any more broadcasts on this subject on any other name too."
The Court had earlier refused to impose a pre-broadcast ban on the controversial Sudarshan TV programme. It said that it has to be circumspect in imposing a prior restraint on publication or the airing of views.
The Court, however, issued notice to the Centre, the Press Council of India, the News Broadcasters Association, and Sudarshan News.
Advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan had moved the Court, submitting transcripts of the show to prove that the program set to be aired today would be derogatory to Muslims entering the profession of civil services.
The petitioner had submitted that the airing of views in the course of the programme would violate the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995, together with the Code of Ethics and News Broadcasting Standards Regulations.
A group of former civil servants too moved Supreme Court to intervene as applicants in the petition by Khan stating that the Supreme Court must lay down an authoritative pronouncement on hate speech.
The intervention application filed through Advocate Anas Tanwir states that the Court had expressed an intention to consider the balance between free speech and other constitutional values that were raised in the instant case, and that it was important for the Court to do so.
Elaborating on the freedom of speech and expression, the plea says that such a freedom "is not limited to what the ruling dispensation may find palatable or what public consensus may permit but includes the freedom to dissent, to question recieved wisdom and established social mores and to offend, shock or disturb".
The promo of the show shared by the channel’s Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke, with hashtag ‘UPSC Jihad’, had garnered criticism from several quarters.
In the video, he called those passing out of Jamia Milia Islamia's Residential Coaching Academy (RCA) and clearing the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) as “Jamia ke Jihadi”.
Citing freedom of press, the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting gave the green signal to the show.
Soon thereafter, the Delhi High Court had issued notice in a petition challenging the Central government's decision to allow the Sudarshan TV broadcast.