New Delhi: Chief Justice of India on Thursday, while hearing a plea filed against the communalization of the Coronavirus pandemic, has reprimanded Information and Broadcasting Ministry in strong words.
The SC bench, of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramaniun, was hearing the petition filed Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind seeking action against media reports indulging in communalization of Covid 19 pandemic in the wake of Tabligh Jamaat Conference held in Delhi in the March.
The bench was irked over the fact that instead of Secretary of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, a Joint Secretary filed an affidavit, required by the Court, which contained unnecessary and nonsensical averments with regard to media reporting to Tablighi Jamaat Conference issue.
The apex court pointed out that the ministry had not even taken account of incidents of bad reporting in its affidavit.
""You have filed the affidavit of some Junior Secretary. We find it extremely evasive, the affidavit does not make any comment on the allegation and goes so far as to say brazenly that the petitioners have not pointed out any incident of bad reporting. To say that you don't agree with the petitioners is one thing but how can you say there is no incident pointed out?" said the CJI SA Bobde.
To this the Solicitor General said that the affidavit should have indeed come from the senior most officer and that he will be filing a fresh one which will be personally vetted by himself.
The CJI responded that the secretary of the ministry must tell the court as to what he thinks of the incidents pointed out.
"He may agree, disagree. But he must not make such unnecessary nonsensical averments as he has made," said the CJI.
The media had been using "communal headlines" and "bigoted statements" to demonise and blame the entire Muslim community of deliberately spreading the corona virus across the country, which had in turn put the lives of Muslims in peril, the plea had said.
Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the petitioners, on Thursday pointed out to the affidavit filed by the Centre to say that the government had taken a stand that the instant petitions were an attempt at muzzling freedom of speech.
CJI SA Bobde responded, " They are entitled to make any argument like you people are. This Freedom of Speech may be the most abused freedom in recent times".
The Court asked the Centre to file the affidavit and adjourned the plea for hearing after two weeks.