The Supreme Court on Tuesday put a brake on the telecast of a programme on a television news channel that equated Muslims entering the civil services to infiltration and “jihad”.
Remarking the programme as “rabid”, the Supreme Court prohibited the channel from telecasting the programme today and tomorrow. The apex court kept the matter for further hearing on September 17.
The Supreme Court said the claims made by the channel were insidious and questions the credibility of UPSC exams. The court taking a strong exception to the programme said it was a great disservice to the nation.
The court was hearing a plea by advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan. Khan claimed that the programme contains derogatory statements about the Muslim community and was divisive in nature.
Last week, the Centre allowed the news channel to broadcast the show which claimed a ‘big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service’.
What did the Supreme Court say?
A three-judge bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud said: “Here is one anchor who says one particular community is trying to infiltrate UPSC. Can anything be more insidious (than such claims). Such allegations affect the stability of the country and also cast aspersions on the credibility of the UPSC exam.”
The bench said that every single person who applies for the UPSC goes through the same selection process. It remarked that the insinuation that one community is trying to infiltrate civil services does great disservice to the nation.
Justice Chandrachud told senior counsel Shyam Divan, who was appearing on behalf of the news channel, that: “In the UPSC exam, all are subjected to the same tests, interviews and are assessed by the same persons. But the insinuation is that one community is trying to infiltrate the UPSC. What you are doing does not do credit to our democratic system. Your client is doing a great disservice to the nation. We are a melting pot of cultures.”
Arguments of the news channel
The news channel contended that the programme raises an issue concerning national security and it is in public interest to bring out the story.
“The programme is in adherence to the programme code,” Divan said.
Also Read: Facebook dodges Delhi panel’s summon
The senior advocate also submitted that he was willing to supply copies of all episodes of the programme to the court. Based on that the bench can decide whether or not the programme is in violation of law, he added.
Supreme Court questions debates on news channels
Justice KM Joseph said that freedom granted to the media is not absolute. Additionally, he remarked that the manner in which certain television channels conduct news debates today left a lot to be desired.
He asked solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, to explore options on disclosing the shareholding pattern and revenue model of media houses in the public domain.
“Certain channels mute panelists when they express views which go against the anchor’s views. This is unfair. No freedom is absolute, not even journalistic freedom,” Justice Joseph said.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta said that the freedom of a journalist is supreme and any regulation of the same would need extensive debates.
The bench acknowledged that regulation of media outlets is a very difficult proposition. The news channel was, however, asked to exercise freedom of speech with responsibility.
To read the latest news in Gujarati click here