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Supreme Court injuncts Sudarshan TV from airing more episodes on “UPSC Jihad": LIVE UPDATES

The Court is hearing a plea against the controversial Sudarshan TV's "UPSC Jihad" programme touted as a ''big expose on the conspiracy" regarding Muslims "infiltrating government service.''

Bar & Bench

A Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud is hearing a plea against the controversial Sudarshan TV's "UPSC Jihad" programme touted as a ''big expose on the conspiracy" regarding Muslims "infiltrating government service.''

Though the top court had earlier refused to impose a pre-broadcast ban, it had issued notice to the Centre, the Press Council of India, the News Broadcasters Association and Sudarshan News returnable today.

Meanwhile former civil servants including Amitabha Pande and Navrekha Sharma have made an informal collective "Constitutional Conduct Group" and have filed a plea seeking to intervene. Plea seeks an authoritative pronouncement on "hate speech"

Live updates from the hearing today feature on this page.

Senior Advocate Anoop Chaudhari for petitioners: This is a prima facie case of violation of law. Delhi High Court has issued notice on the plea challenging the green signal given by I&B ministry.

Chaudhari: 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.

Chaudhari: The show has graphs they have used words like "ha***** gaddar" in the show. Very unfortunate words. There are only 292 Muslim officers in the services.

Chaudhari: Broadcasts divided into 9 parts. Only 2 parts have been streamed now.

Justice Chandrachud: The petition seeks guidelines as to how media should report some issues. Some guidelines for self regulation of media. Else there will be a divisive way of airing views

Justice Chandrachud: We are not saying states will impose any such guidelines as it would be an anathema to Article 19 (1)(a)

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta: So far as pre publication restraint is concerned, there is a law laid down in Bonnard case of 1891. The principle laid down has been followed till the 2000s

Justice KM Joseph: We need to look at the ownership of the visual media. Entire shareholding pattern of the company must be on site for public. Revenue model of that company should also be put up to check if government is putting more ads in one and less in another

Justice Joseph: Media can't fall foul of standards prescribed by themselves. Next in debates one needs to see the role of anchor. How one listens when others speak. But check in the TV debates the percentage of time taken by the anchor to speak. They mute the speaker and ask questions

Justice Joseph: The freedom of media is on behalf of the citizens.

Justice Chandrachud: Power of electronic media is huge. The electronic media can become focal point by targeting particular communities or groups. The anchor's grievance is that a particular group is gaining entry into civil services. How insidious is this?

Justice Chandrachud: Such insidious charges also puts a question mark on the UPSC exams. Aspersions have been casr on UPSC. Such allegations without any factual basis, how can this be allowed? Can such programs be allowed in a free society?

Justice Chandrachud: Reputations can be damaged, image can be tarnished. How to control this? State cannot do this

Court: Shouldn't there be enforceable standards that the media profess itself to so that Article 19(1)(a) is upheld?

SG Mehta: 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 press

SG: There is also a parallel media other than electronic media where a laptop and a journalist can lead to lakhs of people viewing their content.

Justice Chandrachud: We are not on social media today. We cannot choose not to regulate one thing because we cannot regulate all

SG: I am talking about electronic media and print media. 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: When we talk about journalistic freedom, it is not absolute. He shares same freedom as like other citizens. There is no separate freedom for journalists like in the US. We need journalists who are fair in their debates

Justice Chandrachud: When journalists operate, they need to work around right to fair comment. See criminal investigation, media often focuses only one part of the investigation.

Justice Chandrachud: 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.

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan appears for Sudarshan TV: We need time to reply

Justice Chandrachud: Your client is doing a disservice to the nation and is not accepting India is a melting point of diverse culture. Your client needs to exercise his freedom with caution.

Senior Advocate Divan: I have been instructed that it is an investigative story. Rest we need to file an affidavit

Bench takes a 45 minute lunch break.

Advocate Shadan Farasat seeks to address the court on the continuing part of the broadcast as it is a 9 part series by Sudarshan Chavhanke.

Advocate Nisha Bhambani: We are for News Broadcasters Association

Justice Chandrachud: We need to ask you if you exists apart from the letter head. What do you do when a parallel criminal investigation goes on in media and reputation is tarnished?

SG Mehta: We cannot compartmentalize electronic and print media.

SG Mehta:  For example Gautam Bhatia writes something to which I dont agree. I want to settle score and I come out with a nasty piece to which he does not respond. I don't mean his novel. Then how can your lordship lay down to regulate?

Justice Chandrachud: Gautam Bhatia has a blog which I read too. He has a statutory warning too (smiles). But that cannot be compared to profit making entities. Intellectual blog on academic interests is very different than such organizations..

SG: i am not on his blog or comments. If I respond to Mr Chaudhari with a nasty article too. Then?

Court: Law does not have to regulate everything to regulate something.

Justice Chandrachud: People might not read newspapers today but watch television. Again reach of local papers in local languages is more than mainstream English newspapers. Watching TV has an entertainment value whereas Newspaper has none. That's why we want to have standards

SG: For example I run a YouTube channel. How can my funding be ascertained?

Justice Joseph: Rule 6 of the Programme code notes that cable TV programs cannot show anything that targets a particular religion or a community.

SG: Your lordships must have seen those programs where "Hindu Terror" was highlighted. The questions is to what extent can courts control the publication of content.

Justice Chandrachud: The mediums have changed. Now internet is a vexed area as one can operate it from anywhere

Court: We are looking at electronic media as these companies are the ones which are based in India. We cannot say we won't regulate electronic media just because we cannot control internet

SG: During lockdown there was a web portal which carried a show as to how lockdown will lead to food scarcity and food riot thus leading to migration. I dont consider it less serious than a threat to communal disharmony.

Justice Joseph: The problem with electronic media is all about TRPs thus leading to more and more sensationalism. So many things masquerade as a form of right.

SG: it needs to be seen if a potential accused can be given a platform to air the defense

Advocate Farasat: Broadcast media is completely different than the other mediums. We are at a stage where broadcast has happened. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and today, Four shows have appeared and he wants to air five more. Now there is a transcript and we are no more on pre telecast ban stage

Farasat: This show has completely vilified the image of Muslims in civil services. They have beem called a terror. Hate speech is something where Right to respond is not possible. How does one respond to a statement that Muslims should not be in civil services?

Justice Chandrachud: Please show us a part of the show which you consider the most contentious part of the show

Senior Advocate Divan: You must see the full show..i must have an opportunity to respond . That is why I sought 2 weeks time.

Justice Joseph: Will you defer the airing till then?

Divan: Not at all. I am not making any such concession

Justice Chandrachud: When is the next episode?

Divan: it will be tonight. This will run successively. But one snippet from here and one snippet from there cannot be shown to the court.

Farasat: I have the entire show here and the link is attached with my petition.

Justice Chandrachud: What is the essence of your show?

Divan: They perceive it to be an investigative story and consider it a national security issue and in public interest.

Divan: There is an 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. Government has directed on September 9 said that program code has to be adhered to.

Divan: If the Lordships want to see all four episodes then we will provide all the copies. I have been instructed that Sudarshan TV reached out of fair comment to the bodies who were investigated but none of them replied.

Justice Joseph: By the time you finish 2 weeks the show will be over. Govrnment asked you not to violate the program code. What is the penalty?

Another intervenor speaks of the hashtag UPSC jihad trend which is disturbing for the three Applicants who are studying at Jamia UPSC centre.

Advocate Shahrukh Alam: Sudarshan TV has sought reply from people on what do they think of the program via responses.

Alam: A young child has sent a video says that he is taken a pledge against anti nationals and become like Sudarshan Chavankhe... these videos are being used as promotional content.. these videos have about 8,000 likes.

Alam: This idea against Muslims in civil services is being spread in a very concerted way.

Advocate Shadan Farasat reads the program code: Section 20 of the Cable Television Networks Act deals with it. Section 19 also bars program that creates communal disharmony or targets a particular community

Advocate Farasat shares screen to show the judges portions from Sudarshan News program "Bindas Bol"

Farasat: The show starts with ISIS face shots. This is nothing but hate speech and communalising something which is not communal. The show basically means all Muslims coming to UPSC are Jihadis. This is being done under the garb of investigative journalism

Justice Chandrachud: We will keeep the matter day after tomorrow. Sudarshan TV defer your broadcast till the next hearing

Senior Advocate Divan: I will strongly resist it as a freedom of press. There cannot be no pre broadcast ban we already have four broadcasts so we know the theme

Divan: If this is a prior restraint order then I have to argue. There is a clear link on funds from abroad

Justice Chandrachud: We are concerned that when you say students who are part of Jamia Milia University is part of a group to infiltrate civil services then we cant tolerate

Justice Chandrachud: As a Supreme Court of the nation we cannot allow you to say that Muslims are infiltrating civil services. You cannot say that the journalist has absolute freedom doing this

Divan: What is different on August 28 that has changed now? Advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan had filed a plea based on the promo of this show. Your lordships had heard the contention then too.

Divan: 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.

Divan: I will come back by day after tomorrow on the video clips shared and also share an affidavit on the larger programming or series that has to be aired. I am receiving whatsapp messages which I cannot argue now because I need to apply my mind

Divan: Journalists believe that he has tied the strings together to show that there is a foreign funding. He may be right or wrong but that needs to be decided. The statutory authority needs to see the clips and decide, this court cannot sit on the place of statutory authority

Justice Joseph: The Rule 6 of the Programme Code lays down that no program can be aired which creates communal disharmony. Is it right that the harmony which exists in India is disturbed?

Justice Chandrachud: After your notification on September 9, there were broadcasts on 11th and 14th. Did the ministry apply their mind to those programs?

SG: i need to take instructions

Advocate Gautam Bhatia: 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. Here in this case pre-telecast restraint parameter is different

Justice Chandrachud dictates orders: Supreme Court was moved on August 28 seeking a ban on a broadcast that was supposed to take place on Sudarshan News TV that day at 8 pm. It was on the basis of a 49 seconds promo

Justice Chandrachud: Hearings to continue at next available sitting, September 17. Petitioners have submitted that since August 28 order, certain developments have taken place.

Episodes of the program based on the same theme has been aired after the September 9 notification of the Centre. Another 5 episodes remain. Petitioners state content of the program has hate speech against Muslims in civil services and has been termed as terror or "jihad" in UPSC

Justice Chandrachud: 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 there's a conspiracy to infiltrate civil service

Justice Chandrachud: It has been argued that program has become a focal point of hate speech in the country.

Justice Chandrachud: 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 program code formed under Cable TV Act

Justice Chandrachud: Edifice of a stable democratic society and observance of constititional rights and duties is based on coexistence of communities. Any attempt to vilify a community must be viewed with disfavor. We are of the view that there is a change in circumstance.

Justice Chandrachud: 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

Justice Chandrachud: We are of the opinion that we appoint a committee of five distinguished citizens who can come up with certain standards for the electronic media. We don't want any politically divisive nature and we need members who are are of commendable stature

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan: Please instruct the court master that we will file short responses by mail. We will make the episodes available.

Justice Chandrachud: Yes we will skim through the videos

Press Council of India: We have regulations in place and a body too

Justice Chandrachud: Really? If things would have been so hunky dory then we would not have to see what we see on TV everyday

Justice Chandrachud observes that the court would have appointed Senior Advocate Shyam Divan as an amicus curiae in the case. However, now that he appears for Sudarshan TV, it is out of question.

Bench rises.

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