16 key statements by Supreme Court in the Sudarshan TV case

SUDARSHAN TV’s show, “UPSC Jihad” on the so-called-infiltration of Muslim students of Jamia Millia Islamia University into the Indian bureaucracy came to light after its Editor in Chief Suresh Chavhanke tweeted a trailer of the show.

Initially, the Delhi High Court while hearing a plea filed by a group of former and current students of Jamia Millia Islamia University had stayed the broadcast of the show till the Centre took a decision in the matter.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on September 9 allowed Sudarshan News channel to telecast its show.  It, however, directed the channel to ensure that the proposed show did not violate any programme code. It also added action would be taken as per the law if any violation was found.

At the same time, the Supreme Court was also considering a plea against the show of the Sudarshan TV albeit filed by a different petitioner, Firoz Iqbal Khan.

By the time, SC took up the matter for hearing on September 15 after issuing notice in the matter, and initially refusing prior restraint against the show on August 28, the channel had broadcast four of the nine episodes of the show in the meantime between September 9 to 14.

The Advocates for the Respondents maintained a defense on Freedom of Speech. The News Broadcasters Association argued that their regulations were strong and had improved and it would make offenders apologise during prime-time.

However, the Supreme Court has taken a strong stand against content that promotes hatred. The judges made some noteworthy statements in both open court and in its order on September 15. At the same time, it has also made itself extremely clear on maintaining the Respondent’s Freedom of Speech. It has asked Suresh Chavhanke to file a personal affidavit that assuages the court’s concerns on hate speech in the show.

On Constitution and the Country

1. “It is a matter of joy for the nation that Muslims are being selected in the UPSC exams. But you are running a show to run them down.”

Justice K M Joseph

 

2. “As judge of the Constitutional Court, I have a constitutional duty to protect human dignity, which is as important as our duty to protect free speech. We respect the right of freedom of speech but we are absolutely concerned about these kinds of attacks against a community.”

Justice D Y Chandrachud

(Justice K M Joseph, Source: Supreme Court of India)

3. “Everybody wants to be part of the power centre. There is nothing wrong with it. You try to marginalize those who should be part of the mainstream.”

Justice K M Joseph

 

4. “India is a melting pot of civilizations, cultures, religions and languages. Any attempt to vilify a religious community must be viewed with grave disfavour by this Court as the custodian of constitutional values. Its duty to enforce constitutional values demands nothing less”

Supreme Court Order dated 15.9.2020

On Spreading Hatred

5. “The Sudarshan TV show on the infiltration of Muslims in Civil Services is insiduous and rabid since it tends to target one particular community”

Justice D Y Chandrachud

 

6. “I saw one of the episodes and it was hurtful to watch. Many pictorials are offensive and need to be taken off.”

Justice Indu Malhotra

(Justice Indu Malhotra, Source: Leaflet Files)

7. “Program is insidious and casts aspersions on a particular community’s candidates who go through the same examinations and get interviewed by the same panel.”

Justice D Y Chandrachud

On Freedom of Speech and Media

8. “While we respect freedom of media, let this message go to the media as well that any community shouldn’t become a target. Ultimately, we all exist as a nation, which must be cohesive and not against any community”

Justice D Y Chandrachud

9. “Hurtful, offensive and stereotypical images should not be used while broadcasting a show like this.”

Justice Indu Malhotra

10. “Problem lies when you accuse the entire community of being part of a conspiracy. You are free to seek a probe into the affairs of any NGOs and all. Can we allow the targeting of a whole community by the media?”

Justice D Y Chandrachud

 

11. “An insidious attempt has been made to insinuate that the community is involved in a conspiracy to infiltrate the civil services. Several statements in the episodes, which have been drawn to the attention of the Court, are not just palpably erroneous but have been made in wanton disregard of the truth”

Supreme Court Order dated 15.9.2020

(Justice D Y Chandrachud, Source: Wikipedia)

On Media Regulation

12. “Media can’t fall foul of standards prescribed by themselves. Next, in debates, one needs to see the role of the anchor, how one listens when others speak. Check in the TV debates the percentage of time taken by the anchor to speak. Some anchors make defamatory remarks against guests whose views the anchors do not agree with. Many times, such guests are muted by the anchors.”

Justice K M Joseph

13. “We need to ask you if you exist apart from the letterhead. What do you do when a parallel criminal investigation goes on in the media and reputation is tarnished?”

Justice D Y Chandrachud

14.  “We need to look at the ownership of the visual media. Entire shareholding pattern of the company must be on site for the public. The revenue model of that company should also be put up to check if the government is putting more ads in one and less in another”

Justice K M Joseph

15. “An injunction order from us is like a nuclear missile and we know it. SG needs to tell us how  you will bring self-regulation.”

Justice D Y Chandrachud

16. “We are not the censor board. We want your client to come to us and tell us how he wants to assuage our apprehensions. He may file a personal affidavit.”

Justice D Y Chandrachud

The Leaflet