SC asks Press Council of India and Center’s response on media coverage of Tabligi  Jamaat incident

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By Syed Ali Mujtaba

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, Justices L Nageswara Rao and M M Shantanagoudar, asked the Press Council of India and Centre to place their response within two weeks about action taken against media communalizing the Nizamuddin Tabligi Jamaat Markaz issue in March 2020.

The case was heard through video conferencing on Wednesday May 27, 2020.

The court asked the Press Council of India (PCI) whether TV channels   broadcasting allegedly communally sensitive news did any violation of the Cable TV (Regulation) Act of 1995?

‘What action did the PCI initiated against certain sections of print and electronic media on allegations of communalization of the Markaz issue,’ the court asked?

On the allegations of circulation of Fake News by certain sections of print and electronic media on the Markaz issue, the Court asked the Press Council of India (PCI), whether it had initiated any action against them?

The bench asked the Central government what measures it had taken to ensure that public isn’t instigated that may later become a law and order problem?

The court also asked the Central government to respond to the plea seeking a probe into the circumstances leading to the holding of the Tablighi Jamaat convention in Delhi in March.

The court wished to know whether the Markaz of the Tablighi Jamaat alone was responsible for the convention or the government had any role in permitting the foreigners to  attend the function. What prevented the government from stopping the convention, when the government had the knowledge of COVID-19 spread?

Senior advocate, Dushyant Dave arguing for the plaintiff said, that this is a grave issue impacting minority rights. It makes out an offence under the law.  This is a serious matter. It requires court’s intervention and appropriate action, Dave said.

He added; certain sections of print and electronic media indulged in communalization of the Nizamuddin Markaz issue. It circulated a lot of fake news, which was misleading and damaging the social fabric of the nation.  Why is the government silent?

The bench then ordered to implead the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) as a party respondent and scheduled the hearing after two weeks.

Earlier, on Monday April 13, 2020, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the petitions filed by the JamiatUlama-i-Hind and others seeking a direction to stop the media from communalizing the Tablighi Jamaat incident linking it to COVID-19 infection.

The Apex Court had asked the petitioners to impaled the Press Council of India (PCI) as a party to the case and posted it for hearing after two weeks.

The court at that time did not pass any interim order and wanted the Press Council of India (PCI) to be impaled in the case.

The court said; “We want to make solid long term measures about the news items as it is a question of larger reporting. Once we take cognizance of every thing, people will understand.”   The case then was also heard through video-conferencing.

 Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com

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