During the hearing of a petition alleging media bias in reports relating to Tablighi Jamaat during the onset of the Wuhan virus outbreak, the Supreme Court today asked the Central government to devise a mechanism to address the complaints relating to media. Commenting on the affidavit filed by the Central government before it, a Bench comprising of the CJI SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian observed that the affidavit was silent on the applicability of the Cable TV Networks Regulation Act and the mechanism adopted by the government to deal with such complaints against the media.
As reported by Bar and Bench, in its affidavit filed on November 13, the Central government had informed the Apex court that the petition was based on vague assertions and the news reports of certain websites. The Centre had contended that these could be not be relied upon to allege that the entire media was spreading communal disharmony. “First you did not file a proper affidavit and then you filed an affidavit which did not deal with the two important questions. It cannot be done this way Mr Mehta. You have to tell us how you have acted under Cable TV Act in some prior incident”, CJI SA Bobde said to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
Asking the Centre as to why the National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) which is a private body, should deal with complaints against media the CJI said, “We want to know the mechanism employed by you and this affidavit has nothing on it. Why should we refer to NBSA etc. when you have the authority to look into it. If it does exist you create authority else we will hand it over to an outside agency”.
The court asked the Centre to tell it about the mechanism to deal with such complaints and directed it to create a mechanism if there was none. The court said that regulation could not be left to an organisation like the NBSA. The next hearing of the matter has been scheduled after three weeks.
Petition filed by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind
The petition was filed by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and their legal cell secretary through advocate Ejaz Maqbool contended that the Talighi Jamaat incident was being used to ‘demonise’ and blame the entire Muslim community. Thousands of people has participated in the religious gathering at Tabilighi Jamaat headquarters in Nizamuddin West in the month of March this year.
Tablighi Jammat had emerged as India’s coronavirus superspreader event at the early stages
In reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha in September, G. Kishan Reddy, Minister of State for Home, had said that members of the Tablighi Jamaat were responsible for spreading the Wuhan Coronavirus to many. “As reported by Delhi Police, despite guidelines/ orders issued by various authorities in pursuance of the outbreak of COVID-19, a huge gathering assembled inside a closed premise; over a protracted period of time; without any semblance of social distancing or provision of masks and sanitizers. This also caused the spread of the virus amongst many persons”, Reddy had said.