SC dismisses petition seeking ban on BBC documentary on PM Modi in India | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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SC dismisses petition seeking ban on BBC documentary on PM Modi in India

ByAbraham Thomas
Feb 10, 2023 06:20 PM IST

Senior advocate Pinky Anand representing the petitioners argued that BBC has been accused in the past of ‘selectively biased’ reporting against India on Kashmir and Mumbai riots

The Supreme Court on Friday junked a “completely misconceived” petition demanding a ban on the India operations of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) following a two-part documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The two-part documentary by BBC titled India: The Modi Question aired in January (AFP Photo)
The two-part documentary by BBC titled India: The Modi Question aired in January (AFP Photo)

“How can you even argue this,” asked a bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and MM Sundresh dealing with a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Beerendra Kumar Singh, president of Delhi-based Hindu Sena and a Bihar resident, claiming to be a farmer.

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“This is a completely misconceived petition. You are asking us to ban the channel,” the bench observed while dismissing the petition.

Also Read: SC issues notice to Centre on pleas against blocking BBC documentary on PM Modi

Senior advocate Pinky Anand representing the petitioners argued that BBC has been accused in the past of ‘selectively biased’ reporting against India on Kashmir and Mumbai riots.

Pointing to the two-part documentary by BBC titled India: The Modi Question aired in January, the petition said, “The broadcast against India is selective and pointed to destabilize the integrity of India and divide the social integration of the country. Such an act in the name of free journalism cannot be permitted and therefore, such illegal, biased and divide and rule policy of the BBC requires a complete ban on Indian soil.”

The petition pointed out that in 1970, the Indian government banned the channel for two years over its cold war broadcasting against India.

The petition justified the Indian government’s decision to take down tweets circulating links to the controversial documentary. It said, “The central government has justifiably blocked the documentary using its emergency powers under the Information Technology Rules, 2022,” the plea stated.

Advocate Anand requested the court to consider listing her petition along with the two similar pending pleas. “That is a different matter,” the bench remarked before dismissing the same.

On January 27, the petitioners moved a representation to the centre seeking a ban on BBC’s India operations but the centre failed to respond.

As the present documentary related to the 2002 riots, the petition termed the BBC documentary to be reflective of “anti-Hinduism propaganda by the BBC to destroy the social fabric of India.”

“India’s overall growth has picked up momentum since 2014 under the Prime Ministership of Narendra Modi, is not being digested by anti-India lobby, media particularly BBC. Therefore, the BBC has been biased against India and Indian government,” read the petition.

The petition further recalled a 2004 inquiry report in Britain which raised questions about the journalistic standards and impartiality of the British broadcaster. “All this goes to show that BBC is not impartial and it has its own agenda against other countries in general and political (agenda) in particular.”

It cited a BBC report of 2019 at the time when Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated by Indian Parliament.

Also Read: Adani-Hindenburg row: SC flags loss of ‘lakhs of crores’, questions efficacy of SEBI’s framework

On February 3, the apex court sought responses from the centre and others on separate petitions challenging its decision to block the documentary. The pleas, on which notice was issued by the top court, have been filed by veteran journalist N Ram, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra, activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan and lawyer M L Sharma.

The top court had on February 3 also directed the central government to produce original records relating to its decision to block the BBC documentary following its January 21 decision when the government issued directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the controversial documentary.

The documentary and its banning also triggered outrage from students at colleges and universities across the country, including Jawaharlal Nehru University, where a protest screening was organised and violence followed.

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