Supreme Court on the Broadcast of Sudarshan TV's 'UPSC Jihad'
The Court also directed that a committee of five citizens should be made for framing standards on electronic media.
Supreme Court puts a stay on Sudarshan TV's programme titled UPSC Jihad
The Supreme Court has given directions to Sudarshan TV for deferring the broadcast of its programme 'UPSC Jihad'. The programme was claimed as a ''big expose on the conspiracy" regarding Muslims "infiltrating government service". The direction of the Court will stand until further orders.
The Bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph passed the order.
The Bench was of the view that it will be necessary to interdict any further telecast based on what has been aired. Consequently, "we direct that pending further orders of this Court, the fifth respondent (Sudarshan TV) shall stand injuncted from making any further telecast in continuation of or similar to the episodes which were telecast on 11, 12, 13 and 14 September 2020 either under the same or any other title or caption."
SC issues directions for setting a committee for framing standards on electronic media
The Court also asked to set up a committee of five citizens who can come up with standards for electronic media. The Court also stated what kind of persons should be in the committee. It said, "We don't want any persons of politically divisive nature and we need members who are of commendable stature."
Justice Chandrachud also stated, "Let the best within the nation suggest measures which we can help the 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."
Shareholding pattern of media companies must be disclosed on their website
While making an important observation, Justice Joseph said, “We need to look at the ownership of the visual media. Entire shareholding pattern of the company must be on site for the public. The revenue model of that company should also be put up to check if the government is putting more ads in one and less in another." He also took note of how debates are conducted on news channels."...in debates, one needs to see the role of the anchor. How one listens when others speak...check in the TV debates the percentage of time taken by anchor to speak. They mute the speaker and ask questions."
Insidious allegations do not have a factual basis
On the topic of the Sudarshan TV broadcast itself, Justice Chandrachud observed,
"The anchor’s grievance is that a particular group is gaining entry into civil services. How insidious is this? Such insidious charges also put a question mark on the UPSC exams. Aspersions have been cast on UPSC. Such allegations are without any factual basis, how can this be allowed? Can such programs be allowed in a free society?"
The Court asked, "Shouldn't there be enforceable standards that the media profess itself to so that Article 19(1)(a) is upheld?"
Journalistic freedom is not absolute
Justice Joseph also clarified what journalistic freedom means in India, "When we talk about journalistic freedom, it is not absolute. He shares the same freedom as other citizens. There is no separate freedom for journalists like in the US. We need journalists who are fair in their debates."
"We are concerned that when you say students who are part of Jamia Millia Islamia are part of a group to infiltrate civil services...we can't tolerate."
"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."
Court issues notice to Press Council of India
SG Mehta was asked whether the Union Ministry for Information & Broadcasting had applied its mind while allowing the episodes released on September 11 and 14, after giving the green signal for the airing of the programme on September 9. Mehta said he would take instructions on this.
The Court, however, issued notice to the Centre, the Press Council of India, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), and Sudarshan News.
The Centre filed an affidavit in reply. The 33-page affidavit states that the Court should first look at the digital media rather than TV or electronic media as the latter is governed by cases and precedents.
While NBA stated in its affidavit that matters dealing with similar allegations of communalisation of a particular community is pending before a CJI SA Bobde led Bench in the cases of Reepak Kansal vs UOI and Jamiat Ulema I Hind vs. UOI and that NBA is a party in both the cases.
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