Widow of Congress politician Rajiv Tyagi, who died recently of heart attack after participating in a TV debate, and the party spokesman Pawan Khera's wife — have moved the Supreme Court for intervention in the Sudarshan TV case and sought that certain news anchors and "peddlers of hate speech" should not be given the benefit of freedom of speech.
Sangeeta Tyagi and Kota Neelima, the author- researcher wife of Congress spokesperson Khera, have referred to the prime time TV shows of four prominent anchors in their intervention plea alleging that their programmes are mostly communal in nature and favour the ruling party.
Seeking urgent hearing on their plea, filed through lawyer Sunil Fernandes, they have compared the situation of the Electronic Media in the country with Nazi Germany. They also quoted Martin Niemller, the German theologian and a Lutheran Pastor: "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out -because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.
The Sudarshan TV case relates to seeking ban on the telecast of 'Bindas Bol' programme which alleges infiltration of Muslims into the country's bureaucracy. The apex court has already imposed the pre-telecast ban on episodes of 'UPSC Jehad' show on the main plea that raised grievances against it on grounds including hate speech.
The court was informed by the Centre on Wednesday that it has prima facie found violation of the programme code and has issued a notice to the channel. The intervention plea further said: The Applicants most respectfully implore and urge this court not to give the benefit of Article 19 (freedom of speech) of the Constitution to such TV Anchors and purveyors /peddlers of Hate speeches. Any protection under Article 19 of the Constitution of India to such TV Debates / TV Anchors is destructive not only of Article 19 itself, but of our very constitutional edifice.
The time is ripe for this court to take judicial notice of those TV Debates/ TV Anchors peddling 'Hate Speeches' under the garb of Article 19 of the Constitution of India and pass appropriate directions under…the Constitution to combat this overarching menace till such time that a suitable law is enacted by the Legislature." The petitioners said the Sudarshan TV show unequivocally and unambiguously falls in the category of Hate Speech and sought the liberty to intervene with regard to the larger issue that is Hate Speech by TV Anchors in the News Debates. The plea sought appropriate, ameliorative and remedial directions/orders from this court to stem/quell and restrict this menace, till such time that the Legislature frames an appropriate legislation in this regard.
It said Tyagi was an unfortunate victim of a hate speech in a TV Debate on August 12 before dying of heart attack. A committee can be constituted for the time being which will be aimed to develop norms for mandatory discussions on chosen topics that reflect the concerns in the Constitution of India in order to establish a healthy atmosphere in the Country. "It shall strive to develop a mechanism which will have a rating system for the TV Anchors and News Debates, so as to ensure that News Debates are democratic and fair, and do not pander to divisive agenda. It is also suggested that the said Committee shall exercise the following powers and duties, the plea suggested.
The plea also gave other suggestions to the top court, which had earlier indicated that it may devise mechanisms to ensure regulation of electronic media. The Topic of discussion, the opening remarks and the 'flow' of the News Debates conducted by such TV Anchors is to support the Government's narrative and discredit, demonize and vilify the voices of the opposition or dissenters, the plea alleged. The TV Anchor is usually loud, aggressive, and discourteous to the 'guest' on his or her Channel, who dissents or does not toe the government's line in stark contrast to the deferential and almost supine behaviour towards pro-government voices, it said.
The TV Anchor allots a disproportionate amount of TV time to the pro-government voices, it said, adding the opposition voices will receive truncated airtime. The shrill loud, voluble, loquacious and aggressive TV Anchor will then brand all voices which are in opposition to the Central Government as discredited 'anti-nationals', the plea alleged and sought strict guidelines to regulate such shows.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had earlier told the top court that the Sudarshan TV has to give reply to the Centre's show cause notice by September 28, failing which an ex parte decision will be taken. The court had then adjourned the hearing till October 5.