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SC stays telecast of Sudarshan TV show

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The Supreme Court Tuesday stayed the telecast of episodes of Sudarshan TV's show 'Bindas Bol', saying at this stage, prima facie it does appear the programme "vilifies the Muslim community". Terming it as a "rabid programme", the court also restrained Sudarshan TV from telecasting the programme today and tomorrow while adjourning the matter to September 17.

Hearing a plea raising grievance over the programme, a bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said, "Look at this programme, how rabid is this programme that one community is entering into civil services."

"See how insinuating is the subject of this programme that Muslims have infiltrated the services and this puts the examinations of UPSC under scanner without any factual basis," said the bench, also comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph.

The court observed concern over the manner in which some media houses were conducting debate "as all kind of defamatory things are being said". "Such insidious charges also put a question mark on the UPSC exams. Aspersions have been cast on UPSC. Such allegations without any factual basis, how can this be allowed" Can such programs be allowed in a free society," the bench said.

The programme, claimed by the channel in promos as a 'big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service', has been a centre of controversy. On August 28, the top court had refused to impose a pre-broadcast ban on the programme.

It had issued notice to the Centre, the Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association and Sudarshan News on a plea filed by advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan who has raised grievance pertaining to the programme.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the top court that freedom of journalist is supreme and it would be "disastrous for any democracy to control the press".

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Sudarshan TV, told the bench that the channel considered it as an investigative story on national security.

To this, the bench told Divan, "Your client is doing a disservice to the nation and is not accepting India is a melting point of diverse culture. Your client needs to exercise his freedom with caution."

It also said that there should be some kind of self-regulation in media and it would hear the solicitor general on this issue. "We are not saying states will impose any such guidelines as it would be an anathema to Article 19 of freedom of speech and expression," the bench said.

The apex court observed that revenue model of TV channels and their ownership patterns should be put in public domain on the website.

"The point is this that the right of the media is on behalf of the citizens only and it's not an exclusive right of the media," the bench said.

"Electronic media has become more powerful than print media and we have not been supportive of pre-broadcast ban," it added.

During the hearing over video conference, the bench referred to "criminal investigation" being carried out by some media houses. "When journalists operate, they need to work around right to fair comment. See criminal investigation, media often focuses only one part of the investigation," it said.

The bench told Divan, "We expect some kind of restraint from your client (Sudarshan TV)".

Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Anoop G Chaudhary said the Delhi High Court had referred the matter to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry but the ministry did not pass a reasoned order. He said the ministry allowed the broadcast and did not hear the other side and simply took the statement of the channel that it would follow the broadcasting rules.

The Delhi High Court, on September 11, had declined to stay the telecast of the series of programmes.

Via: InDianExpress