New Delhi Sept 1(ILNS): The Supreme Court today expressed its grave concern over the fake news shown by some media houses and web portals, without any accountability, while saying they only worry about powerful men, not judges, institutions, or common people.
The Court observed this in the backdrop of a petition filed against the communalisation of the Nizamuddin Markaz by certain sections of print and electronic media, last year when it was blamed for the COVID spike in the NCT of Delhi.
A Three Judges Bench comprised of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, and Justice Surya Kant, & Justice A.S. Bopanna allowed amendment of Prayer by petitioner and directed him to serve the copies to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also prayed before the 3 judges Bench to consider the Transfer petitions akin to Web Portals, Media Regulations.
Chief Justice N.V.Ramana said, “Facebook, Youtube, and other social media, they don’t respond to us. Forget about individuals. No accountability is being taken who publish such thing for the institution.” He said that he has not seen any public channel or Twitter come forward and make any kind of response. They do not worry about judges but only worry about Powerful men.
During the hearing today the SG said to Bench, ‘your Lordship, Detail affidavit is filed by the Secretary. There was another matter and in the booklet containing dos and don’ts.’
The CJI said that no Counter Affidavit was filed from the union of India. One is preferred on behalf of the ministry of information and broadcaster and one from the press council of India.
Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde –“I will take out the amendments, grant me 4 weeks’ time.”
Nisha Bhambhani, for News Broadcasting Association, submitted, “We have challenged amendment rules 2021 and obtained an order from Kerala High Court of no coercive action to be taken against them.”
SG said, “The contest is between freedom of speech and rights of citizens so that to ensure no uncovered news should be disseminated to the public.” “There are rules framed & one court has granted stay & the Top court is seized of transfer petition,” he added.
CJI replied, Web portal I’m not aware of. “If you see on Youtube, so much is shown in a minute. Is there any mechanism to tackle this?”
SG – Yes we have laid down mechanisms in the Rules. We have a statutory mechanism under the Cable TV Act. For web portals, we have a separate set of rules. There are three layers – the self-regulatory layer, the interference layer, etc.
Sr. Adv Sanjay Hegde seconds SGs submission and says it’s correct. There are rules for web portals & the UOI has filed Transfer Petitions.
CJI: These web portals, don’t even reply.
Sr Adv Hegde: I myself am a victim. I was blocked by one of the channels & I approached the Delhi High Court. There, they say that my Writ is not amenable.
Bench to Sanjay Hegde, You filed suit then? (on a lighter note)
SG requested for listing the matter related to IT Rules to next week. He further said that these rules have been challenged in various High Courts and orders are being passed.
The bench ordered, “Counsel for the petitioner seeks time to amend the prayer. Four weeks’ time is granted to amend the plea and to file a counter. Serve a copy to SGI. SG is at liberty to file rejoinder.”
CJI: “As far as transfer plea is concerned, let the same be listed along with this petition.”
The Court was hearing the plea filed by Jamiat-Ulama-i –Hind seeking directions to prevent the communalization of the Nizamuddin Markaz issue by certain sections of the print and electronic media posing a threat to the life and liberty of Muslims and infringing their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The petition highlighted the Delhi riots which took place in February 2020. While the State was recovering from the said riots and the relief work was ongoing, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the declaration of a nationwide lockdown.
The petition filed through Advocate Ejaz Maqbool further states that certain sections of the media have reported the Nizamuddin incident with a communal favor and have used phrases such as “Corona Jihad, Corona Terrorism, Islamic Insurrection, Corona bombs, etc” thus making it apparent that the unfortunate incident of the Tablighi Jamat was being used to demonize and blame the entire Muslim community.
The Petition further stated that such reporting has triggered communal antagonism and religious hatred thus disturbing communal harmony in the country. It alleged, “That the state had failed to check communalization of content by media and by not taking action against such unsocial elements. The state had failed in its duty to give equal protection of law to all persons in India under Article 14 of the Constitution.”
It was pointed out that the actions of certain sections of media are against the letter and spirit of the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards issued by the News Broadcasters Association which is the regulatory body for news channels. Also, such reporting is also in violation of Rule 6 of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 which prohibits any program which contains an attack on religious communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes.
It sought directions from the court to the Central Government to stop the dissemination of fake news and take strict action against the sections of the media spreading bigotry and communal hatred in relation to the Nizamuddin Markaz issue. Also, sought direction from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to identify and take strict action against sections of the media who are communalizing the issue against the letter and spirit, issued by it with the directions of the Supreme Court./ILNS/KR/SNG