Sangeeta Tyagi, wife of late Congress leader Rajiv Tyagi, files intervention application in Sudarshan TV case; draws parallels with Nazi Germany

Sangeeta Tyagi, the wife Congress leader, late Rajiv Tyagi, who passed away last month after a heart attack soon after a TV debate, has approached the Supreme Court in the Sudarshan TV case, by way of an intervention application seeking to assist the Supreme Court on the larger issue of ‘Hate Speech’ by TV Anchors.

Dr. Kota Neelima, author and wife of Congress leader Pawan Khera has also joined Tyagi in the plea.

In their plea filed through Advocate-on-Record Sunil Fernandes, the duo have said that the situation of the Electronic Media in the country bore unhappy and undesirable parallels with Nazi Germany, at least with regards to “Hate Speeches” in the Electronic Media.

“Broadcasts by the TV Anchor Suresh Chavhanke is emblematic of a larger, insidious malady that has infected the electronic media of our Country i.e. the propensity of TV Anchors to shamelessly indulge in “Hate Speeches” via the medium of so called TV Debates on Prime Time”, the application states.

The plea states that late Rajiv Tyagi was an unfortunate victim of a ‘Hate Speech’ during a TV Debate on Aaj Tak New Channel on 12.08.2020 at 5 p.m. when during a discussion of violence in Bengaluru, he was repeatedly vilified as “Jaichand” (a pejorative metaphor used these days to demonize somebody from the Hindu faith who does not subscribe to the rightwing fundamentalist ideology).

Also Read: ‘UPSC Jihad’: Centre sends notice to Sudarshan TV for ‘apparent’ violation of Programme Code; SC seeks action taken report

They alleged that there was a steady and almost irreversible trend clearly visible these days, whereby TV anchors and TV debates degenerated into blatant purveyors of “Hate Speech”.

Citing Rate The Debate (“RTD”), a research-based study of Television News Debates conducted by the applicant Neelama, the intervenors stated that news anchor Amish Devgan of News18 India had conducted 66 % (approx.) of all debates in August on Religion / communal politics, and 0 % his debates were on law and order, unemployment, economic crisis, etc.

Likewise, Anjana Om Kashyap of AajTak conducted 81% (Approx.) of all debates in August-September, 2020 on the Sushant Singh Rajput case, while 0% were on issues concerning the middle class.

Anand Narasimhan of CNN-News18 conducted 47% (Approx.) of all debates in August-September on China/ Pakistan and 29% (Approx.) on Love Jihad, Tablighi Jamat and communal riots. Furthermore, 64% (Approx.) speaking time was given to pro-Govt panelists while 29% (Approx.) speaking time was given panelists perceived as anti-government.

With regard to Arnab Goswami of Republic TV, the applicants stated 65% (Approx.) of all debates in July-September, 2020 conducted by him were on the Sushant Singh Rajput case. Speaking time allotted to panelists supporting Arnab Goswami’s point of view was 57% (Approx.) while those opposing him were only allotted 5% (Approx.) of the total debate time.

“The topic of discussion, the opening remarks and the ‘flow’ of the “News Debates” conducted by such TV anchors is to support the government narrative and discredit, demonize and vilify the voices of the opposition or dissenters”, the applicants state.

“These TV Anchors make an a priori assumption that everything done by the Central Government is in the best interest of the nation and anyone who speaks a contrarian voice, is a fortiori, an “anti-national”, the plea alleges.

They suggested that a committee be constituted to develop norms for mandatory discussions on chosen topics that reflect the concerns in the Constitution of India in order to establish a healthy atmosphere in the Country. It will, the plea states, strive to develop a mechanism which will have a rating system for the TV anchors and news debates so as to ensure that the debates are democratic and fair, and do not pander to a divisive agenda.

The apex court on September 15 issued an interim injunction against the broadcast of the remaining episodes of Sudarshan TV’s “UPSC Jihad” show.

It had observed “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”. 

It added “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”.

Centre on September 23 informed the top court that it had sent a notice to Sudarshan TV for an apparent violation of Programme Codes prescribed under the ‘The Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994’.

SG Tushar Mehta added that the Channel had been asked to respond to the notice by September 28. He, therefore, requested the Court to adjourn the hearing of a plea seeking a permanent injunction against Sudarshan TV’s “UPSC Jihad” which according to the channel was a conspiracy of “infiltration of Muslims” to the Civil Services.

The matter is listed for further hearing on October 5.