‘Totally misconceived’: Supreme Court rejects plea to ban BBC in India over documentary
The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a “completely misconceived” plea demanding a ban on BBC in India amidst a controversy surrounding a documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a “completely misconceived” public interest litigation (PIL) demanding a ban on British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in India amidst a controversy surrounding a documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots.
“How can you even argue this,” a bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and MM Sundresh asked the petitioner, Beerendra Kumar Singh, president of Delhi-based Hindu Sena.
“This is a completely misconceived petition and absolutely meritless. You are asking us to ban the channel,” the bench added, as it subsequently dismissed the petition.
Incidentally, the same top court bench on February 3 had sought the Centre’s response on two petitions – one filed jointly by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, journalist N Ram and advocate Prashant Bhushan and another by advocate ML Sharma – challenging the ban on circulation of links to the BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question.
The documentary – based on the 2002 Gujarat riots when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the state – had sparked outrage across the country last month, prompting the Union government on January 20 to issue directions to block multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts with links to the film.
While the Centre termed the documentary a “propaganda” and a reflection of the “colonial mindset”, BBC maintained that the film “was rigorously researched according to highest editorial standards”.
Appearing for the petitioner in the top court on Friday, senior advocate Pinky Anand argued that the British broadcaster has, in the past, been accused of bias while reporting on ‘India on Kashmir’ and on the 1992 Bombay riots.
The counsel also pointed out that in 1970, the then Indian government had banned the channel for two years over its cold war broadcasting against India.
Referring to the two-part BBC documentary, the petition said: “The broadcast against India is selective and pointed to destabilise 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 complete banned from Indian soil.”
The petition also pointed at the Centre’s decision to take down tweets circulating links to the controversial documentary. “The central government has justifiably blocked the documentary using its emergency powers under the Information Technology Rules, 2022,” it said.
As Anand urged the court to consider listing her petition with the two pending pleas mentioned above, the court remarked: “That is a different matter.”
The petition cited the August 29, 1970 order passed by then prime minister Indira Gandhi to briefly ban BBC operations in India over its cold war reportage against India.
On January 27, the petitioners moved a representation to the Centre, seeking ban on BBC’s India operations but did not get any response.
The petition also recalled a 2004 inquiry report by the British government which allegedly questioned 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 said.
On February 3, the bench directed the Union government to produce the original records with regard to a January 20 directive to social media platforms to take down the two-part documentary, or tweets and posts containing links to it. It is scheduled to hear the matter in April.