India’s Supreme Court Tuesday stayed the telecast of the remaining episodes of a TV program that claimed Muslims were “infiltrating” into the country’s civil services.
The channel, Sudarshan TV, referred to it as “UPSC Jihad”. UPSC stands for Union Public Service Commission
A two-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice DY Chandrahud, ordered the stay after hearing submissions on a public interest litigation filed against the telecast of the program on a channel called Sudarshan TV.
The court slated it for further hearing on Thursday.
“If you read and hear the transcript, you will see that they say Muslims are infiltrating the civil services. They say how Muslim, OBCs [other backward classes] are eating the share of other OBCs,” said senior lawyer Anoop George Chaudhari, appearing for the petitioner.
He said this was a prima facie case of violation of law, adding that Delhi High Court had earlier issued a notice after hearing the plea challenging the go-ahead given to the program by the country’s information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry.
India’s solicitor general Tushar Mehta said that so far as pre-publication restraint is concerned, there is a law laid down in some case way back in 1891. The bench said that it needs to look at the ownership of the visual media.
“Most of the electronic media and channels are based on TRP [TV ratings] and revenue model, so many things may be seen to be beamed on the name of popularity,” Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the judges in the bench, observed.
Advocate Sadan Farasat, the lawyer for one of the parties, submitted that it was a clear vilification of the Muslim community.
“Hate speech is what? It demeans one’s individuals dignity and respect. It is demeaning one’s dignity,” Farasat said.
Accusing the channel of targeting a particular community, he said that the show starts with ISIS face shots and added that this is nothing but hate speech and communalizing something that is not communal.
“The show basically means all Muslims coming to the UPSC are Jihadis. This is incorrect. This may be done under the guise of investigative journalism,” Farasat said.
Senior lawyer Shyam Diwan, appearing for Sudarshan TV, said that it was a case of foreign funding and “we have evidence to show that.”
The top Indian court had earlier declined to stay the telecast but agreed to examine the larger issue of balancing of free speech with other constitutional values, including the fundamental right to equality and fair treatment for every segment of citizens.