Delhi High Court on Friday restrained private television channel Sudarshan News from broadcasting a show that students of Jamia Millia Islamia university said sought to incite hatred against them.
Also on Friday, the Supreme Court, after hearing a different petitioner on the same issue, declined to stop the airing of the show, saying it was important to be circumspect about imposing a pre-broadcast injunction.
The show, which had claimed to be an “exposé” on the “infiltration of Muslims” in the civil services, was not broadcast at its scheduled time of 8 pm on Friday.
Suresh Chavhanke, the owner and editor-in-chief of Sudarshan News, said in a statement: “To respect the Delhi High Court’s stay order, we’ve stopped the telecast of today’s ‘Bindas Bol’ programme. The subject of today’s ‘Bindas Bol’ was based on “Bureaucracy Jihad”. Chavhanke claimed this was the “first time in the history of television news that a show has been stopped before its telecast”.
A little over an hour before the show time, however, Chavhanke had posted on Twitter: “Aaj raat 8 baje show hoga. (The show will be broadcast at 8 this evening.)” The channel had not received an official notice, he said – “should we get such a notice, we will read it and give our version at 8 pm”.
The petition in the High Court, filed by current and former students of Jamia, submitted that the show sought to “defame, attack and incite hatred against Jamia Millia Islamia, its alumni and the Muslim community at large”.
Chavhanke had tweeted a promo of the show a few days ago, in which he used the expression “Jamia ke Jihadi”.
In both the promo video and his tweet on Friday, Chavhanke used the hashtag “UPSC_Jihad”. In the statement issued on Friday night, he stressed that “We strongly stand by the content shown in the promo of our programme.”
The single-judge High Court Bench of Justice Navin Chawla issued notices to the central government, the UPSC, Sudarshan TV, and Chavhanke, and scheduled the matter for September 7.
“Having considered the submissions made, till the next date of hearing, the respondent number 3 and 4 are restrained from telecasting the programme titled ‘Bindas Bol’, scheduled to be telecast at 8 pm today,” Justice Chawla said in his order.
The petition in the Supreme Court was filed by Advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan. A Bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and K M Joseph declined to order a pre-broadcast stay on the show, and issued notices to the Centre, the Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association and Sudarshan News, returnable by September 15.
“At this stage, we have desisted from imposing a pre-broadcast interlocutory injunction on the basis of an unverified transcript of a forty-nine second clip,” the judges said. “The Court has to be circumspect in imposing a prior restraint on publication or the airing of views.”
The Bench, however, noted that “under statutory provisions, competent authorities are vested with powers to ensure compliance with law, including provisions of the criminal law intended to ensure social harmony and the peaceful coexistence of all communities”.
Issuing the notices, the court said that “prima facie, the petition raises significant issues bearing on the protection of constitutional rights”, and “together with free speech, there are other constitutional values which need to be balanced and preserved including the fundamental right to equality and fair treatment for every segment of citizens”.
The plea relied on the transcript of the promo clip which “was aired on the television channel in the course of the last week”. The petitioner contended that “the clip contains statements which are derogatory of the entry of Muslims in the civil services”.
The petition in the High Court, filed by Advocate Shadan Farasat on behalf of the petitioners, said that in the promo, Chavhanke “openly engaged in hate speech and defamation against students of Jamia Millia Islamia and the Muslim community, and has claimed that the success of Jamia Milia Islamia students in the Civil Services examination 2020 represents a conspiracy to infiltrate the civil service by Muslims”.
Standing Counsel Anurag Ahluwalia, who appeared for the Union of India, submitted that “several complaints having been received by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and a notice has been issued to the respondent number 3 (Sudarshan News) seeking its clarification”.
Late at night, Chavhanke tweeted: “…We have all the facts. We will go to the Supreme Court and the High Court and tell them how a fraud has been perpetrated on them. How, to crush our rights, the order of the Supreme Court was concealed.”