SC raps Sudarshan TV, stops airing of show on ‘UPSC Jihad’

Apex court says the drift, tenor, and content of already-aired episodes try to bring disrepute to the community and cast aspersions at UPSC; calls for citizens’ panel to draw standards for electronic media

Supreme Court
The bench said that dismissing the cases against the accused would only “amount to interference with normal course of justice for illegitimate reasons.”

The Supreme Court on Tuesday (September 15) observed that the ‘Bindas Bol’ programme by news channel Sudarshan TV in which the entry of Muslims into Civil services was labelled as ‘UPSC Jihad’ was an attempt to vilify the community, and restrained the makers from proceeding with the rest nine episodes of the show.

“You cannot target one community and brand them in a particular manner,” the apex court said.

The court has posted the next hearing of the case on September 17.

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The channel has so far aired four episodes of the programme (from September 11 to 14).

A bench of justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph, rapped the show’s producers for portraying an entire community in poor light and casting aspersions on UPSC at the same time, through “insidious charges”.

Related news: Sudarshan TV to air show on UPSC Jihad as HC denies stay

“Prima facie, it does appear to the court that the intent, object and purpose of the episodes which have been telecast is to vilify the Muslim community. An insidious attempt has been made to insinuate that the community is involved in a conspiracy to infiltrate the civil services. The drift, tenor and content of the episodes is to bring the community into public hatred and disrepute…Any attempt to vilify a community must be viewed with disfavour by this court as a custodian of Constitutional values,” the bench said.

While the court during an earlier hearing of the case had refused to impose a pre-broadcast ban on the programme, its latest order was based on the “tone and tenor of the programme” aired after the four episodes from September 11 to 14.

“We are of the view that there has been a change of circumstances at least prima facie on the basis of the record which has emerged before this court. We order and direct that pending further orders of this court, Sudarshan News shall stand injuncted from airing any further broadcasts in continuation of or similar to the broadcast which have taken place on September 11, 12, 13 and 14 either under the same or any other title or caption,” the bench ordered.

Pointing that the electronic media’s chase for TRPs, veiled as “a form of right” is damaging the reputation of people, the judges convened a committee of five distinguished citizens to come up with standards for the medium.

“Your client is doing a disservice to the nation and is not accepting India is a melting point of diverse culture. Your client needs to exercise his freedom with caution,” Justice Chandrachud told Sudarshan TV lawyer Shyam Diwan.

Countering the observations of the court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who represented the Centre, cited examples of similar programmes on ‘Hindu Terror’ and said it would be ‘disastrous for any democracy to control the press’.

Related news: Love Jihad: BJP’s polarising weapon

Justice KM Joseph, however, said journalistic freedom “is not absolute” and that a journalist shares the same freedom as other citizens.

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