‘This Is So Insidious. Can Such Programs Be Tolerated In Free Society?’ SC Puts Stay On Sudarshan TV’s Controversial Series

by Sidharth Pandey 1 year ago Views 2054

‘Can Such Programs Be Allowed In Free Society?’ SC
The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the telecast of a controversial series by satellite TV channel Sudarshan News, titled ‘UPSC Jihad’ touted as an 'expose' on the ‘infiltration of Muslims in government service’.

Taking a strong view, the Supreme Court noted that "at this stage, prima facie, it appears to the court that the object, intent and purpose of the program is to vilify the Muslim community with an insidious attempt to portray them as part of a conspiracy to infiltrate the civil services".

During the hearing, the three-judge bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud took a strong exception with Justice Chandrachud observing that claims made by the channel of ‘infiltration of the civil services’ by Muslims was ‘insidious’ and also cast an aspersion on the credibility of the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) or India’s civil services exams. The court described this as ‘a great disservice to the nation’.

Sudarshan News is an Indian news channel in Hindi founded in 2005 by Suresh Chavhanke who is the chairman as well as Editor-in-Chief. The channel has already aired a couple of episodes of the series but has now been restrained from telecasting the remaining episodes either under the same caption or under a different name.

Initially, the top court on August 28 had refrained from imposing any pre-telecast ban noting that it cannot prevent the airing of a programme based on a short unverified 49-second clip which had been presented to the court. The Delhi High Court which also heard a plea against the airing of the series based on the promo of the show noted that prima facie the promo appears to violate the ‘programming code’ and had asked the central government to take a decision on the airing of the programme.

The Centre had on September 10 allowed the telecast of the program saying that ‘pre-censorship’ of news was not done and asked the channel to ensure that the programming code is followed. Several former civil servants including Navrekha Sharma, Amitabha Pande had then approached the top court against the telecast of the programme, with a plea that seeks an authoritative pronouncement on "hate speech".

In its defence, Shyam Divan, Senior counsel appearing for the channel today informed the court that the programme ‘is in adherence to programme code’ and offered to supply all copies of the programmes to let the court decide whether there was a violation of the programming rules.

Justice KM Joseph, who is part of the bench hearing the case orally observed that "the freedom of media is on behalf of the citizens…and is not absolute". Justice Joseph further said that "we need to look at the ownership of the visual media. Entire shareholding pattern of the company must be on site for public. Revenue model of that company should also be put up to check if government is putting more ads in one and less in another".

The Court will now hear the case again on September 17.

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