The Centre has told the Supreme Court that Sudarshan TV’s Bindas Bol show, whose airing had been curtailed by the court, breached the Programme Code, and that its episodes were “not in good taste, offensive and (had) a likelihood of promoting communal attitudes”. It added that the channel can air the remaining episodes subject to modifications.
In an affidavit submitted to the Court, the Centre referred to a November 4 order passed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, which said that “after examining all (the) facts and circumstance of the case and balancing the fundamental rights of the broadcaster”, it has decided to “caution” Sudarshan TV Channel Ltd “to be careful in future”. “It is further directed that if any violation of the Programme Code is found in future, stricter penal action would be taken,” the order states.
On September 15, a Bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph, had stayed the telecast of the remaining episodes of the show, which claimed to be an “expose” on “the infiltration of Muslims” in the civil services, saying “prima facie, it appears…the object, intent and purpose of the programme is to vilify the Muslim community…”. On October 26, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta had said he would be placing on record the proceedings initiated by the ministry. The Court is scheduled to hear the matter on Wednesday.
The ministry’s November 4 order says that it is of the opinion that “while freedom of speech and expression is a Fundamental Right, the tone and tenor of the episode telecast do indicate that the channel has through various utterances and audiovisual content breached the Programme Code”.
The order says the ministry had taken note of the channel’s contention that the programme’s central theme was not a particular community but the activities of the Zakat Foundation of India. However, the ministry said, “the manner in which the channel has gone about its exposition, including its comments on the selection process, examination system of the Civil Services, portrays one community and the UPSC in poor light, and the channel could well have avoided utterances and videos which were not in good taste or decency”.
The channel has been told to review the content of the future episodes of Bindas Bol. It has been directed to modify the content especially regarding the following: if it offends good taste or decency; contains an attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes; contains anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive, and innuendos and half-truths; is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national attitudes; criticises, maligns, or slanders any individual in person or certain groups, segments; contains visuals or words which reflect “a slandering, ironical and snobbish attitude” in the portrayal of certain ethnic, linguistic and regional groups.
“The Sudarshan TV channel is hereby directed to make due compliance to the aforementioned direction of the ministry before telecast and report the same… forthwith,” the order says.
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