New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday observed that freedom of speech may well be one of the most abused freedoms of recent times.

The court was hearing pleas seeking strict action against the media for communalizing the Coronavirus pandemic considering the Tablighi Jamaat Meeting held earlier this year in Delhi.

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave pointed out to the affidavit filed by the Centre and added that the Centre had taken a stand that the instant petitions were an attempt at Muzzling Freedom of Speech.

To this, CJI SA Bobde responded, “They are entitled to make any argument like you people are. This Freedom of Speech may be the most abused freedom in recent times”.

The meeting in March generated a huge controversy as it became a coronavirus super-spreader with many cases across the country linked to those who had attended the gathering.

The centre has defended the media in this case and said in its response to the Supreme Court that there was “no instance of bad reporting”. The Supreme Court pulled up the centre on its affidavit and said it “must tell us instances of bad reporting” and what action had been taken.

The government has been asked to file another affidavit, this time by the Secretary of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, on the petition seeking action against some TV channels.

“You cannot treat this court the way you are treating it. Some junior officer has filed the affidavit. Your affidavit is evasive and says petitioner shows no instance of bad reporting. You may not agree but how you can say there is no instance of bad reporting shown,” the Chief Justice questioned.

Referring to the petition citing alleged instances of fake news on the Tablighi Jamaat members, Justice Bobde said: “The Secretary must tell us what he thinks of the incidents pointed out by the petitioner. We find it extremely evasive. The affidavit does not make any response on the allegations made by the petitioners on some TV channels spreading hatred.”

Asking for a do-over, the Chief Justice sternly said the fresh affidavit “should not make unnecessary nonsensical averments”.

The Supreme Court said it would take up the case after two weeks.

The petitions were filed by the Jamiat-Ulema-I-Hind and others.

Besides the Chief Justice, the bench included Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian. They heard the case through video-link.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also added to this by stating that this was an opinion of the Department.

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