New Delhi: After the Centre informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it has prima facie found violation of the programme code by Sudarshan TV’s ‘Bindas Bol’ show and has issued a notice to the channel, the top court adjourned hearing in the matter until October 5.
The top court said that the steps taken by the government in pursuance to the show-cause notice against the channel will be subject to the orders of the court.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K.M. Joseph was informed by solicitor general Tushar Mehta that Sudarshan TV has to give reply to the show cause notice by September 28, failing which an ex parte decision will be taken.
During the course of the hearing today, Mehta said that the Central government has, in exercise of the power conferred upon it by sub-section (3) of Section 20 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995, issued a notice to show cause dated September 23, to Sudarshan News.
The bench said that since the notice is stated to be returnable on September 28, Mehta has requested the court to defer the hearing in the present case so as to enable the Central government to take a considered view of the matter.
Since the notice has been issued on Wednesday, the hearing is deferred to October 5, the court said.
It added: “The notice shall be dealt with in accordance with law and the Central Government shall submit a report to this Court indicating the outcome of the notice.”
“Since the notice has been issued during the pendency of these proceedings, further steps in pursuance of the notice to show cause shall be subject to the result of the present proceedings and to such orders as may be passed by this Court.”
The top court also said that its interim order of September 15, 2020 (injuncting the telecast of remaining episodes of the programme) shall continue to remain in operation pending further orders.
During the brief hearing, Mehta said that the four-page notice to the channel has sought an explanation on various points regarding violation of the programme code and why action should not be taken against it.
The detailed notice under Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995 was issued on Wednesday itself, showing facts that are, according to the government, prima facie not in accordance with the programme code, he said.
The bench observed that if the case wasn’t heard by the court then all episodes would have been aired by now. At the outset, it asked intervenors in the matter to file written submissions, if any.
On September 21, the top court had pondered over the nature and extent of its order regulating ‘Bindas Bol’ programme on alleged infiltration of Muslims in bureaucracy saying it did not want to curtail freedom of speech.
The apex court, which has already imposed the pre-telecast ban on episodes of the show on a plea raising grievances against it on grounds including hate speech, was irked over the fact that the channel, in its affidavit, has named one English news channel for running two shows on Hindu terror earlier.
“Why have you said about the programmes (of the English news channel)? Who asked about your opinion about the programmes?” it had said.
Lawyer Vishnu Shankar Jain, appearing for editor-in-chief Suresh Chavhanke, had said that his affidavit contained reference of the English channel and their programmes on Hindu terror as he was asked earlier as to why the ‘UPSC Jihad’ episodes have shown Muslim men in skull caps and wearing green.
The bench then said:
“Does this mean that every time, the judges asked questions you will shoot your mouth with your views? If that is the case then judges will stop asking questions. You are not supposed to file affidavits on all the questions which judges ask. Judges ask questions to elicit a better response.”
On being told by the petitioners that the episodes have violated the programme code under cable TV rules, the top court pondered over the extent of control and curb which can be imposed by it through its orders.
“This programme (‘Bindas Bol’) has public interest involved on (issues of) foreign funding or on reservation. If we are to issue injunction (stay) then what kind of injunction will be like, whether it should be a blanket injunction. There is also public interest involved with it,” the bench had observed.
The top court had observed that constitutional values, human dignity are needed to be protected but the court cannot become the enforcers of programme code.
Earlier, the top court had questioned Sudarshan TV over its programme asking whether the media can be allowed to target the whole set of communities.
It had asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the National Broadcasters Association to give suggestions for strengthening the self-regulating mechanism of NBA for electronic media.
(With PTI inputs)