The Information and Broadcasting ministry’s one-day ban on news channel NDTV India has sparked many debates across the country. The channel was to be taken off air for 24 hours for allegedly revealing “strategically-sensitive information” during the course of its coverage of the anti-terror operations at the Pathankot airbase earlier this year. The first-of-its-kind order has imposed a blackout prohibiting “the transmission or re-transmission of NDTV India channel for one day on any platform throughout India with effect from 00:01 hrs on 9th November to 00:01 hrs of 10th November”.
On Saturday, Justice Markandeya Katju added his voice to the chorus and called the ban illegal. “I spoke just now with Ravish Kumar of NDTV, and told him that the one day ban on NDTV was illegal.” he wrote in his blog ‘Satyam Bruyat.’
He explains in his blog the legal aspect of the ban stating the Rule 6 (1)(p) of the Programme Code of the Cable TV Network Rules 1994 under which it has been imposed. According to the rule, “No programme should be carried in the cable service which contains live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces, wherein media coverage shall be restricted to periodic briefing by an officer designated by the appropriate Government…, till such operation concludes.”
The above rule states that a ban is applicable on broadcasting ‘live coverage’ of anti-terrorist operations by security forces.
“Live coverage means showing scenes of security forces searching or pursuing terrorists, or fighting with them. Mere reporting about anti terrorist operations is not live coverage. NDTV had only reported about anti terrorist operations, but had not shown any scenes of security forces chasing or fighting with terrorists. So there was no live coverage. The ban was therefore clearly illegal.” wrote Justice Katju in his blog.