CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has refused to issue any restraining order on a public interest litigation demanding control on the content aired by private television channels.
The first bench comprising Chief Justice S K Kaul and Justice M M Sundresh said there was no doubt that the contents of TV channel telecasts raised the issue of telecast of obscene, vulgar and violent scenes. But the same could not be stalled in toto, they observed while closing a PIL.
This was the information age and it would not be possible to stop technology development, the bench said. There was an explosion of information and the solution lay only in monitoring or switching off the channel when it appeared to be offensive.
As to what was offensive and obscene was again a subjective issue and thus, whether the viewers were elders or young children, they must exercise discretion. All these were social issues and whether to have a legislation or not or what form of regulation was required was best left to the government, the bench said, and refused to issue any specific direction.
The bench was closing on January 21 a public interest petition filed by G Alex Benziger and three others praying for a direction to the Centre to regulate and prohibit transmission of private TV channels, including Sun TV, Kalaignar TV and FTV, via cable networks. According to the petitioners, the channels telecast indecent, vulgar, obscene programmes of inducing or glorifying violence, crimes, obscenity, explicit images of sexual perversions or acts of sexual violence like rape or molestation, or showed pornography, or used sexually suggestive body language or had half naked girls dancing, drinking and smoking.
In its counter, the Centre submitted that there was no pre-censorship of programmes telecast by private television channels, though they were required to adhere to the provisions of programmes/advertising codes prescribed under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the Rules framed thereunder.
An Inter-Ministerial Committee had also been set up under Section 20 of the Act to look into violation of these codes, which would either suo motu or on receipt of complaints, examine the cases of violations.
There were cases where action had been taken against the TV channels as per the Rules. The Code was also stated to be under consideration for revision.
The bench stated that a similar issue had been raised before the Delhi High Court and in its order dated September 10, 2008, it had been observed that the matter was complex, with several competing interests, and the exercise was best left to the Government. The government had issued guidelines for certification of films for public exhibition under the Cinematograph Act, 1952. Thus, there was an enforcement machinery for films and TV channels and an Electronic Media Monitoring Center had been set up to monitor the contents on television and the Centre was stated to have been examining the issue of legislation to regulate the operation of broadcasting services.
But, the Bills introduced had lapsed, the bench stated and added that “In our view, certainly a mandamus cannot lie to legislate,” the bench said.