Sudarshan TV row: SC says doesn't want to curtail freedom of speech

Lawyer Vishnu Shankar Jain, appearing for Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke, said that his affidavit contained reference of the English channel and their programmes on Hindu terror.

Published: 21st September 2020 07:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st September 2020 07:21 PM   |  A+A-

Supreme Court

Supreme Court (File Photo | PTI)


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday pondered over the nature and extent of its order regulating Sudarshan TV's 'Bindas Bol' programme on alleged infiltration of Muslims in bureaucracy saying it did not want to "curtail" freedom of speech as the programme has "public interest" involved on issues of "foreign funding" and "reservation".

The apex court, which has already imposed the pre-telecast ban on episodes of 'UPSC Jehad' as part of 'Bindas Bol' programmes on a plea raising grievances against it on grounds including hate speech, was irked over the fact that the channel, in his affidavit, has named one English news Channel for running two shows on Hindu terror earlier.

"Why you have said about the programmes (of the English news channel). Who asked about your opinion about the programmes," a bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud asked the counsel representing the news channel.

Lawyer Vishnu Shankar Jain, appearing for Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke, said that his affidavit contained reference of the English channel and their programmes on Hindu terror as he was asked earlier as to why the 'UPSC Jehad' episodes have "shown Muslim men in skull caps and wearing greens".

"Does this mean that every time, the judges asked questions you will shoot your mouth with your views? If that is the case then judges will stop asking questions. You are not supposed to file affidavits on all the questions which judges asks. Judges asks questions to elicit better response," said the bench which also comprised Justices Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph.

On being told by the petitioners that the episodes have violated the programme code under cable TV rules, the top court pondered over the extent of control and curb which can be imposed by it through its orders.

ALSO READ | Sudarshan TV in SC seeks vacation of stay on telecast of episodes of 'Bindas Bol' programme

"This programme ('Bindas Bol') has public interest involved on (issues of) foreign funding or on reservation. If we are to issue injunction (stay) then what kind of injunction will be like, whether it should be a blanket injunction. There is also public interest involved with it," the bench observed.

"What does the court say as to what kind of injunction should be given, like what should be allowed or what should not be allowed. Because we don't want to curtail Article 19 (1) (a) (freedom of speech and expression)," the bench said in the hearing conducted through video conferencing.

In a two-hour-long hearing, the bench said constitutional values, human dignity are needed to be protected but the court cannot "become the enforcers of programme code".

At the outset, the channel urged the apex court to lift the stay on the telecast of the remaining six episodes of the controversial programme, saying the channel would abide by laws.

"Do you think that you followed programme code and whether you will telecast the remaining shows in the same tone and tenor," the bench asked.

"Yes, we have followed the programme code and compiled the law and the remaining episodes will also be on the same line. Please see the four episodes through my client's eyes," the lawyer for the channel replied.

The bench, which has now fixed the case for hearing on September 23, told senior lawyers Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for an intervenor and Mukul Rohatgi, representing NBF (a body of channels), that they will be heard at the last.

Lawyer Shadan Farasat represented some Jamia students who were opposed to the programme.

He argued "now Sudarshan TV says it will continue to telecast the programme in the same tenor. Participation of Muslims in civil service and in Parliament is a threat and they are about to take over the country. This is the theme. Each and every episode is a violation of programme code."

ALSO READ | SC asks Zakat NGO to intervene in Sudarshan TV case as channel alleges terror-linked funding

The bench then asked the lawyer about the controversial speeches, part of the programmes of the channel, of Abdul Rauf (former civil servant) and Akbaruddinn Owaisi of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.

"As far Abdul Rauf's speech is concerned he had said that more Muslims should come into civil services to be able to serve the community. As far as Owaisi is concerned his tone and tenor was aggressive but as far as speech is concerned there is nothing wrong with it," Farasat said.

On allegations of foreign fundings to Zakat Foundation by some terror-linked organizations in programmes, the lawyer said, "the attack on Zakat foundation is intrinsically linked with other parts of the hate speech".

Earlier, the top court had questioned Sudarshan TV over its programme asking whether media can be allowed to "target whole set of communities" and had asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the National Broadcasters Association to give suggestions for strengthening the “self-regulating mechanism" of NBA for electronic media.


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