Tablighi coverage: Supreme Court annoyed with petitioners pushing timelines on court

Justice Sharad Bobde.

Justice Sharad Bobde.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde on Friday voiced his exasperation at petitioners expecting the Supreme Court to work against the clock.

The top judge was responding to a plea that the court should intervene and direct the government, without any further delay, to take action against certain sections of the media who communalised the incident of a Tablighi Jamaat congregation during lockdown by linking it to a spike in the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, for petitioners, including Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, said over two months have passed since the reportage of the events in March. No action has been forthcoming from the government.

“Your Lordships should direct the government... The government has not acted all this time”, he pleaded.

Tablighi Jamaat, an island unto itself

Chief Justice Bobde said, “Of course, they will not act until we direct. That is our experience”.

The government has filed an affidavit saying a “blanket gag order” on the media in this issue would violate a journalist’s right to free speech and an informed citizen’s right to know.

In the hearing, Mr. Dave reminded the CJI that over two months had passed since the coverage.

“We are increasingly seeing petitioners trying to bind us to these timelines... Should we go on and give a wrong direction because of a timeline?” Chief Justice Bobde asked.

NBA, PCI responses

The three-judge Bench then decided to wait for responses from the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) and the Press Council of India (PCI) before passing “appropriate orders”. The NBA submitted it had “issued notices” on the complaints received about the coverage. The PCI said it had taken cognisance of 50 complaints.

Tablighi Jamaat and COVID-19: The story so far

Mr. Dave said the NBA and the PCI were advisory bodies and cannot pass orders.

Chief Justice Bobde said, “We are not belittling this problem of media coverage at all. We feel handicapped. We want somebody who is an expert to go into this and then we will pass orders on the basis that”. He scheduled the case for hearing on August 26.

The petitions said that certain sections of the print and electronic media were spreading bigotry and communal hatred in relation to the Tablighi Jamaat conference held in the Nizamuddin Markaz area.

The Jamiat writ, filed through advocate Ejaz Maqbool, has sought a direction to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to identify and take strict action against sections of the media who are communalising the Nizamuddin Markaz issue.

The petition said the “unfortunate incident of the Tablighi Jamaat was used to demonise and blame the entire Muslim community”. Certain sections of the media, instead of exercising restraint, reported the incident with a communal flavour. This may perpetrate hatred.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 1:57:28 AM |

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