BBC Documentary Ban: SC Issues Notice to Centre on PILs Against its Blocking
BBC Documentary Ban: A batch of petitions have been filed by senior journalist N Ram, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, and advocate Prashant Bhushan, and also by senior advocate M L Sharma against the Centre's move to ban the screening of the BBC series.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre while responding to a batch of petitions challenging the government's ban on the screening of the controversial BBC documentary on PM Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots. The top also directed the Centre to file its response over the issue within three weeks. The top court then posted the matter for hearing in April.
Supreme Court issues notice to the Centre on plea seeking direction to restrain the Central government from censoring the BBC documentary relating to the 2002 Gujarat Riots.
SC seeks response from the Centre within three weeks. SC posts the matter for hearing in April. pic.twitter.com/65nLjc71Eh — ANI (@ANI) February 3, 2023
The order was passed by a top court bench comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna and MM Sundresh, which earlier agreed to take up the petition filed by senior journalist N Ram, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, and advocate Prashant Bhushan, and another petition moved by advocate M L Sharma.
The two-part BBC documentary, titled ‘India: The Modi Question’, has been in the news ever since its release. However, it has been dismissed as a biased "propaganda piece" by the government.
The plea filed by Sharma contended that the BBC documentary on the Gujarat riots was released for public view. However, due to "fear of truth", the documentary has been banned from viewership in India by any means under rule 16 of the IT Act 2021.
Sharma`s plea sought a direction for quashing the January 21 order under the IT Act being illegal, malafide and arbitrary, unconstitutional and void ab-initio and ultra vires to the Constitution of India.
In his plea, the petitioner contended that the BBC documentary has reflected the true facts with original recordings of the victims of the 2002 riots as well as other concerned persons involved in the scenario of the riots, and it can be used for judicial justice.
A separate petition has been filed by journalist N. Ram, Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra, and advocate Prashant Bhushan against taking down their tweets with links to the documentary.
"The content of the BBC documentary and the tweets by Petitioner No. 2 (Bhushan) and 3 (Moitra) are protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The content of the documentary series does not fall under any of the restrictions specified under Article 19(2) or restrictions imposed under Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000," said the plea filed by Ram and others.
The plea by Ram and others argued that the apex court has categorically laid down that criticism of the government or its policies or even the judgment of the Supreme Court does not tantamount to violating the sovereignty and integrity of India.
"Censoring freedom of speech and expression of the petitioners by the executive through opaque orders and proceedings is manifestly arbitrary as it frustrates the fundamental right of the petitioners to effectively seek judicial review of administrative actions under Articles 226 and 32 of the Constitution of India in violation of the basic structure of the Constitution of India," added the plea.
The central government has banned the screening of the BBC documentary and sharing of its links on social media and online channels. However, despite the Centre’s ban, it has been screened in some universities across the country.