The Delhi high court has asked the information and broadcasting ministry to explain how it handles complaints against astrology-based shows on television.
The court’s observation on Wednesday has put the spotlight on a thriving section of the Indian television industry.
A division bench of chief justice G Rohini and justice RS Endlaw, which was hearing a petition filed by non-governmental organisation Sai Lok Kalyan Sanstha, asked the ministry, “What is the procedure which you follow to look into complaints? These are not mere advertisements; these are programs (sic). You are telling us about cable TV regulations, what about DTH?”
The bench added, “We will pass appropriate orders.”
The petitioner has stated that a huge amount of money is changing hands and the physical and mental well being of citizens is at stake.
“The existing laws and regulation have proved totally inadequate to check all these superstitions. These programs (sic) also do not derive any validity from the established religious institutions.”
The petition has also sought directions from the court to stop “illegal activities” of television channels continuing their business in violation of rules issued by the ministry.
It has stated that “in this process of making money, many channels have compromised with ethics and are also acting in breach of rules and law, particularly provisions of Drugs and Magic Remedy Act and rules framed under Cable Television Network Regulation Act framed by Information and Broadcasting Ministry”.
During the hearing, the ministry submitted it had taken action against several advertisements which carried objectionable content and that the advertising standard council of India (ASCI) was the designated body to look into complaints.
The ministry added that while deliberating on complaints received by the ASCI, it was observed that the advertisements made unsubstantiated claims and violated provisions of the code for self-regulation.
It said that such advertisements also violated advertising code as per the Cable Television Network Rules 1994. The rule stipulates, “No advertisement which violates the code of self-regulation in advertising, as adopted by ASCI, for public exhibition in India, from time to time, shall be carried in the cable service.”
The court had earlier sought from the ministry the programme code for monitoring broadcasting by the electronic media.