Comments range from seeing it as an attack on media freedom to an attempt to keep information hidden from the public.
New Delhi: Ever since an Ahmedabad rural court last week granted BJP leader Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah an ex-parte ad-interim injunction seeking to prevent The Wire from publishing any further stories on the business dealings of his two companies, the opposition as well as free speech proponents have seen in the cases that have been filed an attempt by the BJP machinery to muzzle critical media.
For the opposition, the support the BJP has extended to Jay Shah – two ministers came forward to plead his case before the media and permission has been granted to the additional solicitor general to represent the BJP president’s son in his ‘private capacity’ – is a classic case of what they have decried as the party’s “double-speak” on transparency in public life.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi was the first politician to take a dig at Jay Shah seeking an injunction. While addressing him as “Shah-Zada” in a direct reference to him being the son, or descendant, of BJP president Amit Shah, he tweeted in a style that made fun of ‘mitron’ – Modi’s pet phrase in the first years of his prime ministership, now abandoned in the face of widespread satire – to mock both the prime minister’s silence and the government’s attempt to gag The Wire:
मित्रों, शाह-जादे के बारे में ना बोलूंगा, ना बोलने दूंगाhttps://t.co/y9QlHFHFHS
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) October 20, 2017
(Mitron, I will neither speak about Shah-zada, or allow others to do so)
In an earlier tweet, Gandhi had accused the BJP of mobilising state machinery to help Jay Shah:
शाह-जादा को सत्ता का कानूनी सहारा!
झंडा ऊंचा रहे हमारा!https://t.co/JQtXRLtcpe
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) October 17, 2017
Responding to Gandhi’s tweet, Union information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani, who is also his direct opponent in the constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, hit back by saying that Gandhi, who was out on bail in the National Herald case, was mocking the court order in an apparent attempt to win the Gujarat election.
A person out on bail mocks the courts. Lage raho Bhai Gujarat phir bhi haroge 🙏 Saal Mubarak https://t.co/WQJI9i1NaH
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) October 20, 2017
While BJP politicians and their supporters defended the Ahmedabad court’s decision to grant Jay Shah an injunction without even giving The Wire an opportunity to be heard, politicians outside the Sangh Parivar criticised the rush to the courts.
General secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Sitaram Yechury saw Jay Shah’s appeal as a powerful person trying to misuse the justice system.
Ex-parte injustice: Instruments of justice shouldn't be misused to gag media, especially when it puts out news reports on powerful people. https://t.co/XO2EaeCII2
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) October 17, 2017
Several Aam Aadmi Party leaders, too, came down heavily on Jay Shah’s rush to seek an injunction.
Jay Amit Shah Attempts to Gag The Wire – The Wire https://t.co/dF3VXK38MZ
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) October 17, 2017
This further proves that AMIT SHAH is nervous and knows his future !!! https://t.co/b7tvA08ivZ
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) October 17, 2017
Eminent public functionaries also expressed their disquiet. Anti-corruption activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan saw the injunction as a means of restricting what ordinary people can say about their rulers.
Public intellectual and historian Ramachandra Guha took a dig at the so-called Gujarat model:
The Gujarat model goes national: https://t.co/x5Xi4nB6At
— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) October 17, 2017
Former CEO of Prasar Bharti Jawhar Sircar saw the move as an attack on media freedom and congratulated The Wire for not “bucking under pressure”.
Note: The story was updated on October 24, 2017.