Amid row over the recent Tanishq advertisement showing inter-faith couple, a plea has been moved in the Delhi High Court seeking to regulate news channels over broadcast and publishing of content based on communal disharmony and hate speech. The plea said it can be clearly inferred from the Tata jewellery brand advertisement that its purpose was to showcase the spirit of unity and brotherhood amongst two religious groups.
However, news channel Sudharshan TV in its October 12 show Bindas Bol', made their best attempts to incite hatred amongst the two religious groups by terming the ad as advertisement jihad', the petition filed by an advocate said. Following the criticism over the ad on social media, the company had withdrawn it.
Petitioner-advocate Asghar Khan said in his plea that the Programme Code under the Cable and Television Networks (Regulation) Rules stipulate that no programme should be carried which contains attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes. This programme (of Sudarshan TV) violates the Programme Code enumerated under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995, together with the Code of Ethics and News Broadcasting Standards Regulations.
The expression of views derogatory to a particular community has a divisive potential, together with free speech, there are other values which need to be balanced and preserved, it said. The plea has arrayed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association and Sudarshan News as parties. The plea sought direction to the authorities to form guidelines to include restrictions as envisaged under Article 19 of the Constitution and orders of the Supreme Court to ensure that media does not abuse the freedom of speech and expression.
It also sought direction to the authorities commanding them to make a mechanism to check contents and advertisements which are spreading hatred amongst the communities and are against the society at large and the spirit of Union of India. The plea sought to declare the alleged hate/ derogatory speeches made by Sudarshan News as violative of Articles 14 (Equality before Law), 19 (Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech) and 21 (Protection of Life and Personal Liberty) of the Constitution.
It has also prayed for imposition of gag order restraining the orator or author of hate or derogatory speeches made on the lines of religion from addressing the public anywhere within the country till the disposal of the criminal proceeding initiated against him.