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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightThe word of caution...

The word of caution from the highest court

The word of caution from the highest court
"Prima facie, it does appear to the Court that the intent, object and purpose of the episodes which have been telecast is to vilify the Muslim community. An insidious attempt has been made to insinuate that the community is involved in a conspiracy to infiltrate the civil services. The drift, tenor and content of the episodes is to bring the community into public hatred and disrepute…Any attempt to vilify a community must be viewed with disfavour by this court as a custodian of Constitutional values,"

"See how insinuating is the subject of this programme that Muslims have infiltrated the services and this puts the examinations of UPSC under scanner without any factual basis?" "We expect some kind of restraint from your client (Sudarshan TV)." "Your client is doing a disservice to the nation and is not accepting India is a melting point of diverse culture. Your client needs to exercise his freedom with caution".

"Any attempt to vilify a community must be viewed with great disfavour by this court which is a custodian of constitutional rights. "

" …….. in debates one needs to see the role of anchor, how one listens when others speak But check in the TV debates the percentage of time taken by anchor to speak. They mute the speaker and ask questions.."

These are some of the landmark observations of the Supreme Court bench of D.Y. Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K.M. Joseph which restrained Sudarshan TV, the pro-sangh-parivar channel from broadcasting its programme spreading hate speech against Muslims. The comments of the bench clearly draw a picture of the way the country's media are traversing.

The Supreme Court's reminder about the spirit of the constitution and the cultural diversity of the country comes in an era when a large section of India's media put a label of traitor and terrorist on Muslims. The highest court was prompted to comment as quoted above, during the legal procedures about the programme based on fake news by private channel Sundarshan TV's head Suresh Chavhanke which said 'Muslims infiltrate into civil services'. In his programme 'BindasBol', Chahvanke described the fact of 30 alumni of the reputed Jamia Millia University, Delhi cracking the latest UPSC competitive examinations as 'Jamia Jihad' and 'UPSC Jihad'.

Chahvanke was heard screaming on air that Muslims were infiltrating into IAS and IPS and it would damage the future of the country. Right on the release of its teaser containing extremely communal utterances on 28 August, over 15 lakh people had watched it, which is also a reflection of the penetration of anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. Over a thousand cultural leaders and organisations including the Indian Police Service (Central) Association who sensed the extent of hate that would be generated by the programme, lodged complaints with the Delhi Commissioner, the National Broadcasting Association, and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and made urgent legal moves against the programme. But the response of the Ministsry of Information & Broadcasting was that Sudarshan TV had done nothing unlawful and did not violate programme code. With this, the interim stay issued by Delhi High Court was vacated. Between 11 and 14 September, four episodes brimming with communal animosity were telecast. The plea of the central government's counsel Tushar Mehta was that the telecast was part of freedom of opinion, but the apex court did not accept that contention. It ruled that the programme was a violation of Cable TV Programme Code rule 6 (1) (C), (D) and breached the spirit of the constitution, and came down heavily on the shameful decadence eating into Indian media.

By repeatedly using the word 'infiltrators', the sangh parivar media have been ceaselessly trying to establish by implication that Muslims are outsiders for the country. The apex court made it clear that this constituted not media freedom, but a rabid politics of hatred. The current media of the country draw a parallel with the mainstream media of Rwanda who made an aggressive call in 1994 to identify traitors by looking at their short noses and destroy them - when 8 lakh Tutsis were subjected to genocide. Short nose was a nickname used to identify Tutsis with derision, like Muslims being derogatorily called jihadis. In 2003, the chairman of the UN tribunal that probed the racial killings in Rwanda, wrote this while sentencing media owners for hate propaganda and racial polarisation: "Media have a crucial role in promoting basic human values as also in destroying them. For this very reason, those who control the media are also liable for their consequences." How unfortunate that the Supreme Court's observations and the media owners of Indian media, remind us about that era of genocide in Rwanda!

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TAGS:Sudarshan TV BindasBol Supreme Court media freedom 
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