New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday declined to grant a pre-broadcast ban order on a Sudarshan News programme on the entry of Muslims in civil services, whereas the Delhi High Court temporarily stayed the broadcast of the show.
The top court said the court has to be circumspect in imposing a prior restraint on publication or airing of views.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and K.M. Joseph said at this stage, the court will desist from imposing a pre-broadcast interlocutory injunction on the basis of an unverified transcript of a 49 second clip.
"The court has to be circumspect in imposing a prior restraint on publication or the airing of views. We note that under statutory provisions, competent authorities are vested with powers to ensure compliance with law, including provisions of the criminal law intended to ensure social harmony and the peaceful coexistence of all communities," said the bench.
Petitioner Firoz Iqbal Khan, who is an advocate, instituted these proceedings under the Constitution's Article 32 and one of the respondents is Sudarshan News.
"The grievance of the petitioner pertains to a programme which is to be broadcast today at 8 p.m. by the fifth respondent (Sudarshan News). The petition has been moved with a few hours left for the broadcast. The petitioner has relied on the transcript of a clip of 49 seconds which, according to counsel, was aired on the television channel in the course of the last week," noted the top court.
The petitioner argued that the clip contains statements which slam the entry of Muslims in the civil services.
The other respondents in the plea are the Central government, the Press Council of India and the News Broadcasters Association.
Petitioner's counsel submitted that the airing of views in the course of the programme would violate the Programme Code enumerated under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995, together with the Code of Ethics and News Broadcasting Standards Regulations.
During the course of the hearing, it was highlighted that the expression of views derogatory to a particular community has a divisive potential.
"Prima facie, the petition raises significant issues bearing on the protection of constitutional rights. Consistent with the fundamental right to free speech and expression, the Court will need to foster a considered debate on the setting up of standards of self-regulation," the bench said.
The top court noted together with free speech, there are other constitutional values which need to be balanced and preserved including the fundamental right to equality and fair treatment for every segment of citizens, as it issued notice returnable on September 15.
"On the next date of listing, the court will consider appointing amicus curiae to assist it towards a resolution which advances the protection of constitutional rights," it said.
The Delhi High Court on Friday also issued notice on a petition against Sudarshan TV's upcoming show on Muslims clearing the UPSC examination, as it temporarily stayed the broadcast of the show.
A single-judge bench passed the orders while hearing a petition filed by certain students of Jamia Millia Islamia that sought prohibition of the proposed broadcast of the programme titled 'Bindas Bol' on Sudarshan TV news channel on Friday.