A week after the Delhi High Court issued a notice to Information and Broadcasting Ministry over a ‘warning’ issued to Tamil channel Sathiyam TV for making “political remarks” against PM Narendra Modi, the channel has approached the High Court again following another showcause notice from the ministry.
The second showcause notice was issued by the ministry on August 26 over similar allegations.
In its fresh plea, which is set to come up for hearing before the High Court on Wednesday, the channel has sought a stay on the ministry’s May 12 ‘warning’ order on grounds that if the two orders are allowed to stand, the ministry can suspend its licence. “Under the Cable TV network rules, the licence of a channel can be suspended for 90 days if there were two notices issued,” said the counsel for the TV channel.
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The ministry previously issued a showcause notice to the channel and on May 12, it passed an order stating that the news channel violated certain provisions of the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable Television Network (Cable) Act, 1995 and the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Rules.
Referring to two shows broadcasted in the channel on December 9 last year, the ministry said in its order: “Such statements being broadcast from a religious preacher appeared to be targeting a political leader and could potentially give rise to a communally sensitive situation and incite the public to violent tendencies which may not be conducive to law and order situation”.
Arguing that the allegations are incorrect, the channel said no such statements against the PM had been made and the “warning” order is contrary to the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) and 25 of the Constitution. It also argued that the order was “a dubious and incorrect interpretation” of the Cable Televisions (Regulation) Act, 1995 and was aimed at “seeking to wrongly implicate (the) petitioner.”
The channel said the two shows referred to in the Ministry notice were a “bible reading show” and a show where newspaper and TV news reports were discussed.
“The discussion pertained to a statement made by a political leader alleging that the PM had inflated the numbers of people appearing in his rallies. Our anchor merely made a statement that inflation of rally figures is common,” said the channel’s counsel.