New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday directed Sudarshan TV to defer the broadcast of its programme touted as a ”big expose on the conspiracy” regarding Muslims “infiltrating government service”, until further orders.
The Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and KM Joseph took up the matter for hearing after earlier refusing to impose a pre-broadcast ban on the controversial programme.
The Court also called for the setting up of a committee of five citizens who can come up with standards for electronic media. It said: “We don’t want any persons of politically divisive nature and we need members who are are of commendable stature.”
The Court said that India is a melting pot of diverse cultures and there should be some kind of self-regulation in the media, and the journalists should be fair in their debates.
The bench reminded that journalistic freedom is not absolute, adding that a journalist has freedom just like any other citizen and no separate freedom like in the US.
Slamming the TV channel, the bench told its counsel: “Your client is doing a disservice to the nation by not accepting that India is a melting pot of diverse cultures. Your client needs to exercise his freedom with caution.”
Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, representing Sudarshan TV, submitted that the channel says that the programme is an investigative story on national security.
“We need journalists who are fair in their debates,” noted the bench.
“How rabid is this programme that one community is entering into civil services,” the bench observed while pointing out that such shows make people switch off their TVs.
The court said that if the media failed to realise this, they will be out of business. “In the end, quality matters,” it observed.
Criticising the show further, the apex court said the programme also casts aspersions on the UPSC civil services examination and its subject is insinuating.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the freedom of journalists is supreme and it would be disastrous for any democracy to control the Press.
The hearing in the matter will continue.
Earlier, the apex court had declined to impose a pre-broadcast ban on the show, and issued notice to the Centre. The petitioners had argued that the programme content would stoke communal tensions.