Another intervention petition has been filed at the Supreme Court in the Sudarshan News case. This time, family members of two Congress leaders in Madhya Pradesh has approached the apex court, saying that some news anchors don’t deserve freedom of speech.
Sangeeta Tyagi, the widow of Congress leader Rajiv Tyagi, who died last month of a heart attack after participating in an intense TV debate, and Dr Kota Neelima, wife of Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera, have filed the intervention petition in the case being heard by Supreme Court on the ‘UPSC Jihad’ program by Sudarshan News. Sangeeta Tyagi is a researcher and Kota Neelima is a researcher-author.
The petitioners have mentioned prime time shows by four prominent anchors, alleging that their programs are communal in nature and biased towards one party. They also compared the current situation in the electronic media in the country with the “Nazi Germany”. The petition says that certain news anchors and “peddlers of hate speech” should not be given the benefit of freedom of speech.
The plea states that the late Congress leader Tyagi was an unfortunate victim of a ‘hate speech’ during a TV debate and that his wife Sangeeta Tyagi has “witnessed and suffered the irredeemable consequences of hate speech”. The plea also states that Dr Neelima is the founder of The Institute of Perception Studies, which has been analysing Television News Debates under an initiative called the Rate The Debate (RTD). This is a research-based study of the Television News Debates in India.
The petitioners have argued that by virtue of their personal and professional experience, they are suited to assist the Supreme Court in the “adjudication, determination of the larger issue of hate speeches and its malicious consequences on the polity and society of India, with specific reference to the hate speeches peddled by the TV Anchors today”.
The Sudarshan News case
The Sudarshan News case refers to a petition filed against the controversial ‘UPSC Jihad’ program on the ‘Bindas Bol’ show on the Hindi News channel. The program alleges conspiracy by Muslims to ‘infiltrate’ the bureaucracy. The apex court has stayed the telecast of the show after four episodes were aired, and has stayed the matter till 5th October for the time being after the I&B ministry issued a notice to the channel giving time till 28 September to submit its reply.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph is hearing the matter.
Several intervention petitions have been filed in this case. On 21st September, OpIndia, Indic Collective Trust and UpWord had filed a petition questioning the permissibility for the Constitutional Courts to judicially legislate a new species of impermissible speech, namely ‘Hate Speech’. The plea had also asked if it is correct for court to restrain content during the pendency of an examination by the appropriate State authority on the legality of the content under applicable laws, and whether the constitutional courts assume the role of the State to restrain the broadcast and consumption of such content if the appropriate state authorities do not find anything objectionable with the content under the applicable law.
On 23rd September, activist Sanjiv Newar announced that he will file an intervention petition in Supreme Court after his comments were portrayed as ‘hate speech’ in the petition against the Sudarshan News program. He said that the definition of Zakat as reproduced by him in show from Islamic texts has been portrayed as hate speech and fake information.
On the same day, author and activist Madhu Kishwar also informed that she has filed an intervention petition in the Supreme Court in Sudarshan News ‘UPSC Jihad’ case. She claimed that her comments during the show, were ‘mischievously’ presented as evidence of hate speech.
Chairman and Editor in Chief of Asiaville News Sashi Kumar has also filed an intervention application before the Supreme Court in the same case. He has contended that attempts have been made to project hate speech as part of freedom of speech under Article 19 have been made, which should be rejected.