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SC to Hear Plea Against Sudarshan TV's 'UPSC Jihad' Show Tomorrow

Television journalists are seen outside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, on January 22, 2020. (REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis)

Television journalists are seen outside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, on January 22, 2020. (REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis)

The matter came up for hearing before a bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud which had on September 15 restrained the channel from telecasting episodes of the programme till further orders, saying the intent of aired episodes prima facie appears to vilify the community.

The Supreme Court Thursday said it would hear tomorrow the plea which has raised grievance over Sudarshan TV's Bindas Bol' programme whose promo had claimed that channel would show the 'big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service'. The matter came up for hearing before a bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud which had on September 15 restrained the channel from telecasting episodes of the programme till further orders, saying the intent of aired episodes prima facie appears to vilify the community.

Senior advocate Anoop George Chaudhary, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that they have been served with a copy of reply filed by the channel today itself and they needed time to respond. Senior advocate Shyan Divan, appearing for Sudarshan TV, told the apex court that they have filed their affidavit.

"Injunction is running against us, and It was difficult to respond in such a time," Divan told the bench, also comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph. "It could be taken on Monday or tomorrow or let me start today itself," he asked.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the matter could be taken up Friday. "We can request the CJI to allow us to hold the bench tomorrow. In all probability it may be done," Justice Chandrachud said, adding, "We can take up the matter at 10.30 am and finish it off."

The solicitor general also said, If the matter is concerned to Sudarshan TV only, then we may not have much to say but if it is the larger issue then we need to address. To this, the bench said, "At present we don't know what will go on in the hearing but of course Divan will argue for vacating the injunction." During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, Justice Joseph said the court has not yet received either the links or episodes of the programme in pen drive.

One of the advocates appearing in the matter said that he would send the link of the episodes to the court master. Divan, while apologising to the court for not sending the links of four episodes which has already been telecast prior to the court's September 15 order, said they would send it to the court as soon as possible.

When Chaudhary told the bench that contempt proceedings should be initiated against editor-in-chief of Sudarshan TV for his tweets after the court's order, Justice Chandrachud says, if he (Suresh Chavhanke) has said something silly, we will ignore it. Chaudhary said he just wanted to bring this issue to the notice of the court.

The advocates appearing for Press Council of India and National Broadcasters Association said they would like to address the court on larger issue in the matter. Terming India as a melting pot of civilizations, cultures, religions and languages, the apex court had on September 15 said that any attempt to vilify a religious community must be viewed with grave disfavour by this court as the custodian of constitutional values and its duty to enforce constitutional values demands nothing less.

The bench had suggested that a committee of apolitical experts of distinguished citizens or former judges may be appointed to help in self-regulating the electronic media specially. The Centre has filed an affidavit in the matter and said if the apex court decides on the issue of media regulation then such an exercise should be undertaken with the digital media first as it has faster reach and information has the potential to go viral due to applications like WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.

The government has told the apex court that sufficient framework and judicial pronouncements exist for the electronic and the print media. Considering the serious impact and the potential, it is desirable that if this court decides to undertake the exercise, it should first be undertaken with regard to digital media as there already exists sufficient framework and judicial pronouncements with regard to electronic media and print media, said the counter affidavit, filed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Separately, Sudarshan TV has also filed an affidavit in the apex court and claimed that it has no ill-will against any community or any individual and the programme concerns a matter of grave national interest.

The channel claimed that it has used word like 'UPSC Jihad' in its programme as an institute for Muslim UPSC aspirants has received foreign funds, also from those which are linked to organisations that allegedly funds extremist groups.


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