SC agrees to hear pleas challenging Centre's ban on BBC documentary on 2002 Gujarat riots

At the outset of the proceedings, lawyer Sharma, who has filed a PIL in his personal capacity, mentioned the plea, saying that people were being arrested.

Published: 30th January 2023 11:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th January 2023 07:59 PM   |  A+A-

Supreme court

A view of the Supreme Court. (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: As the Supreme Court agreed to hear on February 6 plea by Journalist N Ram, Advocate Prashant Bhushan & TMC MP Mahua Moitra challenging centre’s decision to ban BBC documentary titled “India the Modi Question” on the 2002 Gujarat riots, taking to twitter Union Law Minister on Monday said, “this is how they waste the precious time of Hon'ble Supreme Court where thousands of common citizens are waiting and seeking dates for Justice.”

The pleas that have been also been filed by serial litigant ML Sharma, were mentioned before the bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud. 

Appearing for N Ram, Advocate Prashant Bhushan and TMC MP, Senior Advocate CU Singh told the bench that their (TMC MP Mahua Moitra & Advocate Prashant Bhushan) tweets were taken down by centre. Singh further stated that the Centre has not yet formally publicised the blocking order and that there were reports of suspension of students from campus. 

Aggrieved by centre’s action of taking down their (TMC MP Mahua Moitra and Advocate Prashant Bhushan) tweets, the petitioners in the plea has stated that all citizens including the press have the fundamental right to view, form an informed opinion, critique, report on, & lawfully circulate the contents of the documentary. It was also stated that citizens have the right to receive and disseminate information under the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. 

Seeking to quash order dated January 20, 2023 of the Secretary, Ministry of the Information and Broadcasting of directly or indirectly censoring the documentary, the plea also stated that Government of India has not officially placed any document/ order or any other information in the public domain which explains the reasons for the need to exercise its emergency powers under Rule 16 of The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. 

“The power of the executive under Section 69 A to lay down directions for ‘blocking public access’ is limited to “sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above”. As there is no Order in the public domain, the reason for restrictions as defined under Section 69A(1) cannot be ascertained,” the plea stated. 

The plea also states that freedom of speech and expression cannot be curtailed in such manifestly arbitrary manner.

Levelling allegations that the ban was “malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional”, ML Sharma in his plea has also sought for examining the documentary. He has also sought for taking actions against persons involved directly or indirectly in Gujarat riots. Sharma has also claimed that the documentary has recorded facts which as evidence can be used further to cause justice to victims. 


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