SC agrees to hear plea challenging Centre's decision to ban BBC documentary

By | Written by Aniruddha Dhar
Jan 30, 2023 11:49 AM IST

A separate petition filed by senior journalist N Ram and advocate Prashant Bhushan on taking down tweets with links to the BBC documentary will also be heard on Monday.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear on February 6 a PIL challenging the Centre's decision to ban the controversial BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The Supreme Court of India. (ANI File Photo)
The Supreme Court of India. (ANI File Photo)

Advocate ML Sharma has filed the petition calling the ban on 'India: The Modi Question' malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional.

A separate petition filed by senior journalist N Ram and advocate Prashant Bhushan on taking down tweets with links to the BBC documentary will also be heard on Monday.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and justices P S Narasimha and JB Pardiwala took note of the submissions of ML Sharma and senior advocate CU Singh seeking urgent listing of their separate PILs on the issue.

The Centre recently directed social media platforms Twitter and YouTube to block links to the documentary. The ministry of external affairs has trashed the documentary as a “propaganda piece” that lacks objectivity and reflects a colonial mindset. The documentary questions Narendra Modi's handling of the riots who was the chief minister of Gujarat then.

At the outset of the proceedings, lawyer Sharma, who has filed a PIL in his personal capacity, mentioned the plea, saying that people were being arrested.

"It will be listed on Monday," the CJI said.

Senior advocate CU Singh mentioned a separate plea on the issue filed by Ram and Bhushan. He mentioned how the tweets by Ram and Bhushan were deleted allegedly by using emergency powers. He also said that students in Ajmer were rusticated for streaming the BBC documentary. "We will list," the CJI said.

The PIL also urged the apex court to call and examine the BBC documentary - both parts I and II - and sought action against persons who were responsible and involved directly and indirectly with the 2002 Gujarat riots.

"That cause of arose to file present petition arose to the petitioner on 21st January 2023 when respondent invoking rule 16 of IT rule 2021 prohibited citizen of India to see BBC documentary consisting/ disclosing true facts of Gujrat riot 2002 butchering of citizen of India in 2002 without adopting constitutional provisions which is a serious injury to the constitutional systems of the India and cannot be repaired if not quashed," the plea said.

The ban amounts to a violation of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), it was contended.

The plea also sought a probe into those responsible for the Gujarat riots.

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