Supreme Court Questions Government On Action Taken Against Media Houses for 'Communal News Reporting' on Coronavirus
Syed Ali Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI, MAY 28—In a significant action, the Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notices to the Central government, Press Council of India(PCI) and the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) asking them what action they had taken against the print, electronic and digital media as also social media circulating news that had the potential to communalise the society and create disharmony among various sections. The notices are returnable on June 15.
The notices were issued on a petition filed by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind’s(Arshad Madani faction) legal secretary Gulzar Ahmed Azmi through advocate Ejaz Maqbool, requesting the court to direct action against those who were circulating the fake news, particularly with regard to the Markaz Nizamuddin of the Tablighi Jamaat in connection with the coronavirus outbreak and the false propaganda by a section of the print, electronic and digital media holding Muslims responsible for spreading of coronavirus in the country. The petition pointed out that some people in Gujarat had circulated leaflets and handbills accusing the Muslims of being carriers of corona which not only weakened the united fight against Covid-19 but resulted into physical attacks on Muslims and their trade boycott as well.
The apex court’s action on Wednesday (May 27) is important in the light of the fact that in previous hearing on April 21, the SC had said that “it will not gag the press” and had asked the petitioner to implead PCI. But on Wednesday, while issuing the notices to the Centre, PCI and NBA, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde observed that “don’t let people instigate law and order issues…These are the things that become law and order issues”. The bench hearing the petition is headed by CJI, with Justice A S Bopanna and Justice Rishikesh being its members.
Appearing for JUH, senior advocate Dushyant Dave drew attention of the court towards communal news content having been reported by the TV channels, specially with regard to Tablighi Jamaat Markaz which had done severe damage to communal harmony and social fabric of the nation. He appealed the court to take serious action in the matter as such reporting is in serious violation of the law and therefore, immediate action is required as substantial time had already lapsed.
Replying to the repeated mention of the petitioner’s advocate to “take the matter seriously”, the bench observed that “we take all matters serious” and also asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to submit in the court within two weeks as to what action the government had taken against TV channels for airing communally sensitive news by violating the provisions of the Cable Television Network(Regulation) Act, 1995.
The court also told Mehta that it was a very serious matter which could result into a serious law and order issue and hence, it is highly imperative on the part of the government to pay urgent attention to this issue.
Commenting on Wednesday’s hearing, JUH president Arshad Madani welcomed the action taken by the court. He said, “Our legal struggle to curb biased media will continue until we get a positive result. We hope that we will get justice in this case because this is a matter of Hindus and Muslims but the integrity and communal harmony of India. Considering today’s hearing as positive, we hope that we will get justice again from Supreme Court.”
He further said, “Though the Court has not given any judgment today, it is a positive sign that court has enquired with the government about action being taken against such media houses”.