Delhi HC Refuses to Lift Stay on Sudarshan TV

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The Delhi High Court refused to lift its stay on Sudarshan TV’s broadcast on Muslim “infiltration” in government services (Syed Mujtaba v. UOI & Ors).

Brief Facts

Sudarshan TV moved the High Court for removal of stay. This was in light of the Supreme Court order refusing to grant any such relief against the broadcast. Sudarshan TV proposed to run a broadcast which claimed to be a “Big Exposé on Conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in Government Service”. The former and present students of Jamia Millia Islamia University moved the High Court. They sought prohibition on the airing of the broadcast. After this, the High Court had issued an order to stay.

Contentions

Advocate Shadan Farasat was the advocate for the petitioners. The petitioners had argued that the proposed broadcast sought to defame, attack and incite hatred against Jamia Millia Islamia. This included its students, alumni, and the Muslim community at large. They contended that the proposed broadcast constituted hate speech and criminal defamation. This was in terms of Sections 153A(1), 153B(1), 295A, and 499 of Indian Penal Code, and violated the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act and its Rules.

Court’s Observation

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla was set up. The hearing took place after 7 pm on 29th August 2020. The Delhi High Court was in line with the Supreme Court order. It opined that the power to decide whether the broadcast was permissible, lied with the competent authority under the Central Government. It directed Sudarshan TV to reply to the Central Government’s notice by September 1. It granted 48 hours to the authority to decide the issue. This was after giving an opportunity to Sudarshan TV and its Editor-in-Chief, Suresh Chavhanke to present their case.

However, opening that prima facie, the broadcast was in violation of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, the Court refused to vacate the stay. It directed Sudarshan TV to not air the broadcast till then. In response to the petition, the Central Government had informed the Court that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had already issued notice to Sudarshan TV with respect to the proposed broadcast.

Court’s Decision

While giving liberty to the parties to take appropriate legal action after the Central Government’s decision, the Court disposed of the petition before it.


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