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New plea in Sudarshan News case seeks SC help to ‘stem menace of hate speech’ by TV anchors

An intervention application has been filed in SC by Sangeeta Tyagi, wife of Congress spokesperson Rajiv Tyagi who died after a TV debate, and political scientist Kota Neelima.

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New Delhi: A fresh intervention application in the Sudarshan News case was filed in the Supreme Court Thursday by Sangeeta Tyagi, wife of Congress spokesperson Rajiv Tyagi who died after a TV debate on 12 August, and political scientist Kota Neelima.

The plea draws the court’s attention to the “menace of hate speech” in TV debates. It seeks “appropriate” and “remedial” directions from the top court to “stem, quell and restrict” the menace of hate speech by TV anchors till the time an appropriate legislation is framed in this regard.

The petition comes a day after a three-judge bench, led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, adjourned the hearing of a batch of petitions against the telecast of the channel’s controversial series ‘Bindas Bol’ that claims to expose an “infiltration of Muslims” in the civil services.

The court’s order came after the central government informed that the channel violated the Programme Code under the Cable TV Act and a show-cause notice has been issued to it.

According to the notice issued by Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Sudarshan News has time till 28 September to respond. The top court is scheduled to hear the matter on 5 October.

The channel had earlier defended the use of terms such as “UPSC jihad” in its Bindas Bol series, claiming that the programme was an investigative report on the alleged infiltration by Muslims in the civil services.

Four episodes of the Bindas Bol series had already been aired before the apex court, on 15 September, blocked its telecast. There are 10 episodes left to be aired.

Also read: Andhra Pradesh HC’s media gag sign of a new culture where judges pass a firman

‘Sudarshan News is emblematic of a larger insidious malady’

Filed through advocate Sunil Fernandes, the intervention petition said that electronic media in our country “bears unhappy and undesirable parallels with Nazi Germany, at least with regards to ‘hate speeches'”.

The applicants also talked about how Rajiv became an unfortunate “victim of hate speech” during TV debates. The petition claimed that he was verbally abused during a discussion on the Aaj Tak channel on 12 August.

The Congress leader was also repeatedly referred to as “Jaichand”, a pejorative used to demonise somebody from the Hindu faith who does not subscribe to the Right-wing fundamentalist ideology, said the application.

Consequently, the petition added, Rajiv suffered a fatal heart attack immediately after the show.

Bindas Bol, the petitioners alleged, is “emblematic of a larger, insidious malady”, which has infected the TV anchors of electronic media in the country.

Laws do not define ‘hate speech’

The petition also submitted that there was a steady and almost irreversible trend these days, where TV anchors and debates are “debased” and “degenerated”. One of the primary reasons for this, the petition said, was because the “remote control” of these debates is in the hands of the “political class in power”.

Such debates are used to effectuate a narrative that will suit the electoral and ideological objectives of political parties and to discredit, demonise and vilify their opponents, the application stated.

The two petitioners also said none of the existing laws in India define the term ‘hate speech’ even though the United Nations (UN), in its “strategy and plan of action on hate speech”, has defined it.

The petition then also went on to define what the UN terms as hate speech: “Any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factor”.

Also read: Netflix, Hotstar opt for self-regulation in India to ward off criticism


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