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.
SG Mehta: If no reply is recieved to the notice then ex parte decision will be taken. Its a detailed show cause notice showing facts which are prima facie according to centre not in accordance with program code. Should not the hearing be deferred till Sept 28?— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) September 23, 2020
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.’
Justice Chandrachud: if the case wasn’t heard then the show would have been completely aired by now. Let us think about it— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) September 23, 2020
SG: I feel the intervention of my lords should be a 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.
The three judges take a moment to ponder over the request made by Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta tonl defer the hearing.— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) September 23, 2020
Senior Adv Anoop Chaudhari: As the petitioner I don’t have a problem with it being deferred as the injunction will continue
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.”
Justice Joseph: Regarding not hearing the petitoner, if a complain 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?— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) September 23, 2020
SG: If 10,000 complaints are recieved 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.”
Senior Adv Chaudhari: we would like to argue in court. If the government order is against us, we would like to challenge that too— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) September 23, 2020
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.
2/n … requested to defer the hearing. We have heard counsels in response to the SG’s submission. They are of the view that since show cause is issued, the proceedings should resume on October 5. The notice shall be dealt with in accordance with law and centre will file a report— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) September 23, 2020
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.
3/n regarding outcome of the decision by the Centre. Hence hearing is deferred to Oct 5. Order passed on Sept 15 injuncting the remain episodes will continue to remain in operation— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) September 23, 2020
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.