New Delhi: Bindas Bol, the controversial programme by Sudarshan TV channel that claims to expose “infiltration of Muslims” in the civil services, has prima facie violated the programme code under the Cable TV Act and a show-cause notice has been issued to the channel, the central government told the Supreme Court Wednesday.
“Centre has issued a four-page notice to Sudarshan TV today. It says that the TV needs to give a written submission before 5 pm on 28 September regarding violation of programme code and why action should not be taken against them,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed a three-judge bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud.
If no reply is received to the notice issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, he said, an ex parte decision will be taken. “It’s a detailed show cause notice showing facts, which are prima facie, according to the Centre, not in accordance with the programme code,” he added, urging the bench to adjourn the matter till 28 September.
Sudarshan TV has claimed that its programme is an investigative report to expose “UPSC jihad” or infiltration of Muslims into the Indian civil services.
The court had on 15 September issued injunction against the broadcast of the remaining 10 episodes of the show. Four had already been aired when the restraint order was issued. The top court had earlier, on 28 August, refused to order a pre-broadcast telecast ban.
Matter adjourned till 5 October
On the solicitor general’s request, the court adjourned the matter to 5 October for further hearing. The petitioners did not object to Mehta’s contention.
“We have heard counsel (petitioners) response to the solicitor general’s submission. They are of the view that since show cause is issued, the proceedings should resume on 5 October. The notice shall be dealt with in accordance with law and Centre will file a report regarding the outcome of the decision by then,” ordered the bench, extending its injunction order till the next date of hearing.
‘Court intervention should be last resort’
During the hearing, Justice Chandrachud remarked that if the case wasn’t heard by the judges, it would have been aired by now. In response to this, Mehta said the court’s intervention should be the last resort.
During a hearing on 15 September, the bench had questioned the government for its inaction against Sudarshan TV. This was after the apex court was informed that the government had given a go-ahead to broadcast the show.
During the arguments, Mehta had supported Sudarshan TV’s contention that there were authorities to deal with violations who can be approached only at the post-broadcast stage.
On being asked what action did the authorities take subsequent to the airing of the episodes and whether the ministry applied its mind, Mehta said he needed instructions on this.
“At this stage, prima facie, it appears to the court that the object, intent and purpose of the programme is to vilify the Muslim community with an insidious attempt to portray them as part of a conspiracy to infiltrate the civil services,” read the 15 September order.
Government says no to hearing petitioners
The matter will not end with the central government taking a decision on Sudarshan TV, the bench clarified when one of the petitioner advocates pointed out that larger questions would remain unanswered even after the Centre resolved the issue.
Mehta, however, opposed the top court’s suggestion to hear the petitioners, saying the law did not permit authorities to hear them.
“Regarding not hearing the petitioner, if a complaint is made, you hear the complainant. The principle of natural justice calls for you to hear them. Will it be illegal to hear the petitioner?” the bench asked Mehta.
In its response, the solicitor general said, “If we receive 10,000 complaints, we cannot hear all of them.” He also turned down the Zakat Foundation of India’s request to hear it since the show revolved around the organisation.
When the bench nudged Mehta to hear the main petitioner, an advocate, he said, “I cannot concede to this. We cannot, My Lords. A bad fact had appealed the court but that cannot become a bad precedent.”
Mehta added the court can examine the matter after the government takes a decision.
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