New Delhi: The controversial ‘UPSC jihad’ episode of TV channel Sudarshan News’ show ‘Bindas Bol’, which sought to “expose” an alleged conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims into the Indian civil services, is “offensive, not in good taste and has the likelihood of promoting communal attitudes”, the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has said in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court Wednesday.
“…The tone and tenor of the episodes telecast do indicate that the channel through the various utterances and audio-visual content breached the Programme Code,” the government added in its affidavit, a copy of was seen by ThePrint.
The Programme Code is a list of yardsticks TV content needs to adhere to before it is aired for audiences.
The ministry states in the affidavit that it has through an order issued earlier this month cautioned the channel to be careful in future.
It also directed the channel to review the content of the yet-to-be-aired episodes of ‘Bindas Bol-UPSC Jihad’ and suitably moderate and modify them, to ensure there is no violation of the Programme Code, the ministry said.
The ministry has asked the channel to comply with its directions and report to the government.
Four of the controversial show’s 10 episodes have already been aired. However, the airing of the remaining six were barred by the Supreme Court on 15 September and the case has been sub judice since. The matter will be heard Thursday by a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.
Reached for comment, Suresh Chavhanke, editor-in-chief of the channel, told ThePrint that the government has not barred the airing of the subsequent episodes, adding that he is hopeful the Supreme Court will allow them to be telecast too.
‘Don’t intervene in freedom’
The Programme and Advertising Codes, prescribed under the Cable TV Network Rules, 1994, list what cannot be carried by a cable service.
Restrictions include content that offends “good taste or decency, contains attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes”, among other things.
According to the ministry, the programme portrays one community and the UPSC in poor light as “certain videos and utterances are not in good taste or decency”.
The ministry’s conclusion is based on the contents of the programme and the findings and recommendations of the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) that decides if private television channels have violated broadcast rules, besides the submissions of the channel. The IMC heard the matter last month.
However, the ministry said it concurs with the findings of the IMC, which said the issue of the alleged terror links of Zakat Foundation — a UPSC IAS training institute at the centre of the Sudarshan News programme — is a disputed matter, and requires to be investigated.
Chavhanke said he was grateful to the ministry for acknowledging that the issue they dealt with in the programme is serious and needs to investigated.
He added: “The government and courts should not intervene in the freedom of the press.”
The Sudarshan News episode came to light after the channel released a promotional trailer of the programme, which at once elicited widespread criticism, with many alleging the content amounted to hate speech.
The episode was also challenged in the Delhi High Court, which stayed its telecast. When Sudarshan News approached the court to vacate the stay, the latter asked the I&B ministry to take a call.
Subsequently, the ministry said it cannot pre-censor a programme, or stop it from being telecast, and allowed the show to air, but asked the channel to ensure the programme proposed to be telecast does not violate the Programme Code.
After the airing of the four episodes, the channel was served a show cause notice by the central government for allegedly violating the programme code. The Supreme Court started hearing the matter after it was approached by a lawyer, Firoz Iqbal Khan.