For the first time since it took charge, the NDA Government has issued separate show-cause notices to ABP News, NDTV 24×7 and Aaj Tak alleging that these three private news television channels showed disrespect to the judiciary and the President of India by airing certain content on the day 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon was hanged. The Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry has asked these channels to explain within 15 days why action should not be taken against them for broadcasting such content.
The content includes phone-in interviews of Chhota Shakeel on Aaj Tak and ABP News in which he claimed Yakub Memon was innocent and said that four mercy petitions were dismissed in a single day. He also alleged that justice had not been done and that he did not believe the court. NDTV 24×7 had aired an interview of Yakub Memon’s lawyer who spoke about how many countries have done away with the death penalty.
The show-cause notices to the channels invoke at least three sections including Section 1(d), Section 1(g) and Section 1(e) of Rule 6 of the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994.
Section 1(d) states that no programme should be carried which contains anything “obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half-truths.” Section 1(e) states that no programme should be carried in the cable service which is “likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote anti-national attitudes. Section 1(g) bars channels from carrying content which “contains aspersions against the integrity of the President and Judiciary”.
Yakub Memon’s hanging on July 30 came hours after an unprecedented late-night opening of the Supreme Court that eventually rejected a final plea for a stay on his execution. That order came 12 hours after the same bench had dismissed another writ petition by Yakub challenging the validity of the death warrant. Justices Dipak Misra, P C Pant and Amitava Roy also rejected objections raised by Justice Kurian Joseph a day earlier and said there was no legal lacuna in dealing with Yakub’s curative petition which was dismissed on July 21.
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Sources said the I&B ministry obtained video clips of the Chhota Shakeel phone-in and Yakub’s lawyer’s statement from the Electronic Media and Monitoring Centre (EMMC) to get the quotes which have been cited in the notice.
At least three orders prohibiting transmission of channels for a period ranging from one day to 30 days have been issued by the Government so far. NDTV Good Times and TLC were taken off air for a day for content described as adult and Al-Jazeera was prohibited for five days after it did not show Jammu & Kashmir as an integral part of India in the country’s map.
Once the channels reply to the show-cause notice, an inter-ministerial committee, which includes officials from the Home, External Affairs and Defence ministries, will review their response and decide on the next step.