File photo: Supreme Court of India.(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
File photo: Supreme Court of India.(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

‘Desist from regulating electronic media’: Centre urges Supreme Court

In an affidavit filed before the apex court on Thursday, the centre said that no further guidelines are required but in the event the court embarks upon the process, then it should first be undertaken with regard to digital media.
By Murali Krishnan | Edited by Sparshita Saxena | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON SEP 17, 2020 07:34 PM IST

The central government on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to refrain from undertaking the exercise of laying down guidelines to regulate electronic media like television channels, stating that the field is already governed by laws made by Parliament and judgments delivered by the top court in the past.

In an affidavit filed before the apex court on Thursday, the centre said that no further guidelines are required but in the event the court embarks upon the process, then it should first be undertaken with regard to digital media like web portals, YouTube channels, et. cetera., which the centre claimed has a faster reach and wider range of viewership in comparison to mainstream media.

“This court may not undertake the exercise of laying down any further guidelines… it is desirable that if this court decides to undertake the exercise, it should first be undertaken with regard to digital media as there already exists sufficient framework and judicial pronouncements with regard to electronic media and print media,” it was submitted.

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The affidavit was filed in the case against television (TV) channel Sudarshan News which was thrust into the limelight after it telecast a show called “Bindas Bol” relating to the entry of Muslims in civil services.

On September 15, the top court had barred further telecast of the controversial programme after it took strong exception to the contents of the show observing that the first four episodes of the show gave an impression that it was being aired with the insidious objective of vilifying the Muslim community and to bring it into disrepute.

The bench, which also comprised Justices KM Joseph and Indu Malhotra, had also expressed inclination to hold a detailed hearing to decide on the regulation of TV news channels and suggested the appointment of a committee of five distinguished citizens to frame standards for regulation of the electronic media.

In its affidavit, the Centre submitted that no such exercise needs to be undertaken merely based on few episodes telecast by one channel, Sudarshan News.

“Even if this court considers it appropriate to undertake the said exercise, there is no justification to confine this exercise only to mainstream electronic media. Digital media has faster reach from a wider range of viewership/readership and has the potential to become viral because of several electronic applications like Whatsapp, Twitter (and) Facebook,” the affidavit stated. The case will be taken up for hearing on Friday.

Meanwhile, Sudarshan News also filed its response in the matter on Wednesday defending the programme and the use of the term “UPSC Jehad” in the programme.

The Noida based channel maintained that it has no ill-will against any particular community or individual and does not oppose the selection of any meritorious candidate. The programme, it claimed, is intended to highlight the allegedly dubious sources of foreign funding received by an organization, Zakat Foundation, which supports and provides coaching to civil service aspirants.

“Zakat Foundation has received funds from various terror-linked organizations. It is not that all contributors to the Zakat Foundation are terror-linked. However, some of the contributors are linked to organizations or are organizations that fund extremist groups. The funds received by the Zakat Foundation, in turn, are used to support aspirants for IAS, IPS or UPSC,” Sudarshan News submitted.

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