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Sudarshan TV case: Supreme Court defers hearing till October 5, channel to respond to IB Ministry notice by Sep 28

The Court observed that the Centre had exercised its power under the Cable Network TV Act, 1995 in its notice to the news channel, and asked the Centre to file a report, in the next hearing, regarding its course of action.

On Wednesday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the Supreme Court that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (IB) had issued a show-cause notice to Sudarshan News Tv seeking an explanation for violating program code during the airing of the ‘UPSC Jihad’ show. He added that the channel has been asked to respond before Monday 5 pm as to why action should not be initiated against them.

Solicitor General informs about Centre’s show-cause notice

The Solicitor General informed that action would be taken as per rules if no reply is received from the news channel. Tushar Mehta emphasised, “It’s a detailed show cause notice showing facts which are prima facie, according to centre, not in accordance with program code.” He requested the apex Court to defer hearing till September 28, in light of the notice.

Justice Chandrachud observed that if the Supreme Court did not intervene in the matter, then, all episodes of ‘UPSC Jihad’ would have been aired by now. The Solicitor-General then pointed out to the Court that its intervention should be the ‘last resort.’

While the three judges hearing the case discussed about the request of the Solicitor General to defer the hearing to September 28, the petitioner Anoop Chaudhari stated that he had no issue with Tushar Mehta’s request. He said that a deferred hearing would not affect the injunction on the airing of the remaining episodes of UPSC Jihad.

IB Ministry cannot entertain submissions from petitioner, states Solicitor General

When Justice Chandrachud asked petitioner Anoop Chaudhari whether he would make submissions before the IB Ministry, the Solicitor General intervened and informed that the law does not entertain any such submission. Hearing that, Justice Kurian Joseph stated, “Regarding not hearing the petitioner, if a complaint is made you hear the complainant. The principle of natural justice calls for you to hear them. Will it be illegal to hear the petitioner?”

Citing inconvenience, Tushar Mehta emphasised that the IB Ministry can only entertain the response of Sudarshan News. He reiterated, “If 10,000 complaints are received then we cannot hear them.”

On being asked by Justice Chandrachud about his intention to make submissions before the IB Ministry, senior advocate Anoop Chaudhari informed, “We would like to argue in court. If the government order is against us, we would like to challenge that too.” He made it clear that he did not want to approach the IB Ministry.

Meanwhile, the Solicitor General pointed, “We cannot my lords. A bad fact had appealed the court but that cannot become a bad precedent.”

Centre to file report; injunction order to continue

After hearing all sides, Justice Chandrachud ordered that the proceedings of the court would resume on October 5, 2020, as Sudarshan News Tv is answerable to the show-cause notice by September 28. The Court observed that the Centre had exercised its power under the Cable Network TV Act, 1995 in its notice to the news channel, and asked the Centre to file a report, in the next hearing, regarding its course of action.

The Court further ruled that the earlier order, which called for an injunction on the remaining episodes of ‘UPSC Jihad’, will remain operational until the next hearing.

The Sudarshan TV case

Hindi news channel Sudarshan News triggered an outrage after it aired a promo for a program which was to be broadcast on 28 August. Sudarshan News chief editor Suresh Chavhanke had informed that the channel is analysing the sudden increase in the number of Muslims selected in various posts in administrative and police services in the country, along with an increase in marks obtained by Muslim candidates as compared with others. However, this triggered Muslim activists and cases were filed to halt the broadcast.

Chavanke’s show had alleged that Zakat Foundation, which helps Muslim students secure UPSC ranks, has been receiving funding from anti-India organisations abroad.

After Delhi High Court stayed the airing of the show, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting gave a nod to broadcast the same. However, Supreme Court later passed an order restraining the telecast of the program.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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