On September 21, the top court had pondered over the nature and extent of its order regulating ”Bindas Bol” programme on alleged infiltration of Muslims in bureaucracy saying it did not want to “curtail” freedom of speech
The Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it has issued a showcause notice to Sudarshan News channel for violating the programme code for its Bindas Bol programme series that alleged Muslims have conspired to ‘infiltrate’ the Indian civil services. The channel has been given time till 28 September to respond to the notice, failing which an ex-parte decision may be taken by the government, Live Law reported.
The programme themed UPSC Jihad alleged that Zakat Foundation, an NGO which provides training to largely Muslims students aspiring for civil services has received funds from various terror-linked organizations.
The four-page-notice has been issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, a written submission from the channel and asking why action should not be taken against it. The next hearing in the matter is on 5 October.
The notice comes after Supreme Court, in an previous hearing in the matter, took strong note of alleged inaction of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the National Broadcasting Association (NBA) in stopping the broadcast of a programme that potentially ‘maligned an entire community’
A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud, and comprising justices Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph is hearing the matter. The bench observed that if the case wasn’t heard then the all episodes would have been aired by now. It adjourned the hearing for October 5 saying the Centre shall file a report regarding the outcome of the decision taken.
The contents of the four episodes which have been telecast by now, came under scrutiny of the court which flagged many aspects, saying all investigating journalism was permissible but maligning of entire community cannot be allowed.
“This is the real issue. Whenever you show them joining civil services, you show ISIS. You want to say that Muslims joining civil services is a part of a deep-rooted conspiracy. Can the media be allowed to target a whole set of communities,” the court had said during an earlier hearing in the case.
Painting all candidates as carrying out an agenda shows a kind of hatred. This is the element of concern, said the bench.
“Here free speech becomes hatred. You can’t brand every member of the community. You alienate the good members too by divisive agenda,” the court had said during a 21 September hearing.
The apex court, which had already imposed the pre-telecast ban on episodes of ‘UPSC Jehad‘ on a plea raising grievances against it on grounds including hate speech, was also 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 have you said about the programmes (of the English news channel)? Who asked about your opinion about the programmes,” it had said.
Lawyer Vishnu Shankar Jain, appearing for Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke, had 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”.
The bench then said: “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 ask. Judges ask questions to elicit a better response.”
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.
On 15 September, the top court had restrained the channel from telecasting the episodes of Bindas Bol programme till further orders, saying that “the intent” of the episodes “prima facie” appeared to “vilify” the Muslim community.