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The Court has remanded the matter for fresh decision by the District Monitoring Committee. The telecast has been permitted only once objectionable content (if any) is removed.
Granting relief to the makers of television serial Begum Jaan, the Gauhati High Court has quashed a Central Government Monitoring Committee order that suspended its telecast for two months (M/s AM Television Private Ltd. and Anr. v. State of Assam and Ors).
Though the Court allowed the telecast of the series, the producers were directed to remove communally charged material (if any) from the serial before it was aired.
Emphasising that any violation of its direction would be viewed seriously by the Court, Justice Suman Shyam enjoined:
Upon complaints that the show was communally charged, the Police Commissioner issued an order suspending the show's telecast. The order was based on the recommendations of the District Monitoring Committee constituted under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The producers of the television show, Rengoni TV, represented by Advocate S Sharma, argued that the quorum specification of the Committee was unmet since a representative from 'electronic media' was not included.
It was argued that the Guidelines issued by the Information Ministry, Government of India mandated representation from electronic media on the Committee.
Additionally, the producers and telecasters of the show were not afforded opportunity for hearing, Advocate Sharma submitted.
Pertinently, the Advocate-General M Bhattacharjee conceded to the petitioners' arguments regarding the quorum requirements and admitted that it was not met.
Justice Shyam found that the Committee's recommendations did not reveal which of the scenes in the series were deemed harmful to communal harmony. Nor did the Committee's deliberations detail its reasons for issuing an order to suspend the telecast, the Court pointed out.
Holding that the Committee's recommendations were violative of natural justice because the petitioners were not heard, Justice Shyam stated:
The Hindu Jagaran Mancha and Gunajit Adhikari, who had originally sought the prohibition of the show's telecast, filed a caveat in Court so as to air their grievances. Their counsel, Advocate HK Das, asserted that the Police could independently order the suspension of a show's telecast, irrespective of whether the Committee was lawfully constituted.
The Single Bench, however, rejected Advocate Das' arguments highlighting that the complaints had originally been made to the Monitoring Committee. Therefore, the Committee was required to apply its mind on the merit of the complaints before making its recommendations, the Judge reasoned.
Remanding the matter back to the Managing Committee for consideration, the Court disposed of the writ petition. The Judge directed that both the complainants and the makers of the serial be allowed to make their submissions before a decision was taken.
Read the Order here: