SC adjourns hearing of Sudarshan TV case after SG informs the court that the decision on ‘UPSC Jihad’ is at advance stage; interim injunction to continue

The Supreme Court Monday adjourned the hearing of a petition challenging Sudarshan TV’s ‘UPSC Jihad’ show to October 26 after Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, for the Central Government, informed the Court that the Inter-Ministerial Committee had given recommendations in respect of the programmes which are yet to be telecast by the news station and as such the Government was in the process of issuing another notice to Sudarshan TV calling for its reply.

“The said process is on-going and is at an advanced stage. It is stated that it is only after giving Sudarshan TV News channel a final opportunity of hearing, the Central Government would be in a position to pass an order under sub-section (3) of Section 20 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995”, the Centre informed the Court.

A three-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra, and Indira Banerjee found it appropriate to defer the hearing to enable the conclusion of the proceedings under the Programme Code on the part of the Centre. Also, the request for adjournment did not meet with any resistance from the petitioner and the intervenors.

The bench made it clear that an interim stay on the remaining five episodes of the ‘UPSC Jihad’ show would continue till further orders.

SG Mehta on September 23 informed the Court that the Centre had sent a notice to Sudarshan TV for an apparent violation of the Programme Codes prescribed under the ‘The Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994’. While deferring the hearing on that day, the bench had also directed the Centre to place before it a report on the action that would follow pursuant to the show cause notice it had issued to the Channel.

Earlier the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on September 9 allowed the 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 that action would be taken as per the law if any violation was found.

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 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”.