The Supreme Court on Tuesday took strong exception to the television programme titled ‘Bindas Bol’ aired by news channel Sudarshan news relating to Muslims entering civil services which the channel had likened to “infiltration” and “Jihad”.
A three-judge bench, headed by justice DY Chandrachud, said that the claims made by the channel were “insidious” and it also cast aspersions on the credibility of the UPSC exams and was a great disservice to the nation.
“Here is one anchor who says one particular community is trying to infiltrate UPSC. Can anything be more insidious (than such claims). Such allegations affect the stability of the country and also cast aspersions on the credibility of the UPSC exam,” justice Chandrachud remarked.
He said that every single person who applies for the UPSC goes through the same selection process and the insinuation that one community is trying to infiltrate civil services does great disservice to the nation.
“In the UPSC exam, all are subjected to the same tests, interviews and are assessed by the same persons. But the insinuation is that one community is trying to infiltrate the UPSC. What you are doing does not do credit to our democratic system. Your client is doing great disservice to the nation. We are a melting pot of cultures,” Chandrachud told senior counsel Shyam Divan, who was appearing on behalf of Sudarshan news.
Sudarshan news submitted that the programme raises an issue concerning national security and it is in public interest to bring out the story.
“The programme is in adherence to programme code,” senior counsel Shyam Divan on behalf of Sudarshan news maintained.
Divan also submitted that he was willing to supply copies of all episodes of the programme to the court so that the bench can decide whether or not the programme is in violation of law.
The court was hearing a plea by advocate Firoz Iqbal Khan who claimed that the programme contains derogatory statements about Muslim community and was divisive in nature.
Justice KM Joseph, who was also on the bench, said that freedom granted to the media is not absolute and the manner in which certain television channels conduct news debates today left a lot to be desired.
He asked solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for Central government, to explore options on disclosing the shareholding pattern and revenue model of media houses on public domain.
“Certain channels mute panellists when they express views which go against the anchor’s views. This is unfair. No freedom is absolute, not even journalistic freedom,” justice Joseph said.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta said that freedom of a journalist is supreme and any regulation of the same would need extensive debates.
The bench acknowledged that regulation of media outlets is a very difficult proposition. He however asked Sudarshan news to exercise freedom of speech with responsibility.
Last week, the Centre allowed Sudarshan News to broadcast the show which claimed a ‘big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service’.
Earlier, the top court on August 28 declined to impose a pre-broadcast ban on the news channel, saying it has to be cautious in imposing a prior restraint on publication or the airing of views and cannot prevent airing of a programme based on an unverified transcript of a 49-second clip.