Supreme Court slams Centre on Tablighi affidavit

A view of the Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde on Thursday pulled up the Union government for mistreating the Supreme Court for having a “junior officer” file an “evasive” affidavit containing “unnecessary, nonsensical” averments on petitions challenging the discriminatory and communal coverage of the Tablighi Jamaat incident by some sections of the media.

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“You cannot treat the court the way you are doing in this case... A junior officer has filed your affidavit. We find it extremely evasive and brazenly short of details. It even says the petitioners here do not point to any instance of bad reporting... “Chief Justice Bobde addressed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Fresh affidavit

Mr. Mehta promised to file a fresh affidavit.

“We want the Secretary of the department [Information and Broadcasting] to file this affidavit... The Secretary has to say what he thinks of the incidents. We do not want any unnecessary, nonsensical averments like those made now”, the CJI said.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for petitioners led by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, said the present government affidavit even accused the petitioners of trying to gag the freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech may be one of the most abused freedom in recent times”, Chief Justice Bobde, heading a three-judge Bench comprising Justices A S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanium, replied.

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The government affidavit had claimed that 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.

The hearing began with Chief Justice Bobde asking whether the regulatory provisions of the Cable TV Act, which are meant for cable networks, would be “exercisable” on TV broadcasts. “We want to know if the government has any power to question or ban TV broadcasting signals”, he asked the parties.

The CJI said regulatory bodies had issued advisories to the the TV channels.

Ban on broadcast

Mr. Dave argued that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had indeed the power to ban TV broadcasting under the Cable TV Act.

He referred to how Malayalam channel Asianet was banned for several hours in March under the Act in relation to their coverage of the Delhi riots.

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The court said it would hear arguments on this point and adjourned the case for two weeks.

The petitions have 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 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, the petition contended.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 2:19:54 PM |

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