by Muslim Mirror Staff
The Delhi High Court has recently summoned the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in response to a defamation lawsuit filed by an NGO called ‘Justice on Trial’ based in Gujarat. The NGO alleges that the BBC’s contentious documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots is defamatory towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a ‘cast a slur’ on the reputation of both India and its judiciary.
“It is contended that the documentary makes defamatory imputation and castes slur on reputation of the country and the judiciary and against the Prime Minister. Issue notice to the respondents…,” the court said.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve, representing the NGO, argued that the two-part documentary has not only defamed India but also its judiciary.
Previously, on May 3, a trial court in Delhi had issued summonses to the BBC, Wikimedia, and Internet Archive based on a criminal complaint filed by a BJP leader. The complaint sought to prevent them from publishing the documentary or any other content that could be defamatory towards the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the BJP, and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). It is worth noting that Wikimedia Foundation supports Wikipedia, while Internet Archive is a digital library based in the United States.
The complainant, a BJP leader, alleged that the BBC documentary titled “India: The Modi Question” has defamed political organizations such as the BJP, RSS, and VHP. It was highlighted in court that despite the documentary being banned by the government, a Wikipedia page dedicated to the series contains links to watch it, and the content is still accessible on Internet Archive
On January 21, the Indian government invoked emergency powers under the Information Technology Rules, 2021, to order the blocking of numerous YouTube videos and Twitter posts containing links to the controversial documentary. The Indian government has labeled the two-part BBC series as a “propaganda piece designed to push a discredited narrative.”
In February, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea requesting a complete ban on BBC in India in relation to the documentary, deeming it “entirely misconceived.” The petitioner had accused the BBC of intentionally defaming India’s image and also sought an investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the alleged “conspiracy” behind the documentary.
The Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by Vishnu Gupta, the chief of Hindu Sena, who sought a ban on the operations of Britain’s national broadcaster, the BBC, in India. The court questioned the notion that a documentary could significantly impact the country, implying that such concerns were unfounded. “How can a documentary affect the country,” the Supreme Court questioned.
“Completely misconceived, how can this be argued also? You want us to put complete censorship? What is this?” a two-judge bench had asked.
In March, the Gujarat Assembly passed a resolution urging the central government to take strong measures against the BBC for allegedly damaging the reputation and popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The descriptor of BBC’s two-part series calls it a “look at tensions between Indian PM Narendra Modi and India’s Muslim minority, investigating claims about his role in the 2002 riots that left over a thousand dead.”
A probe conducted by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court found no evidence of wrongdoing by then-Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, who is now the Prime Minister of India, in relation to the riots that occurred in February 2002. The SIT’s report, released a decade after the riots, concluded that there was”no prosecutable evidence” against PM Modi, thereby exonerating him.
In June of the previous year, the Supreme Court supported the clearance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stating that the case against him was “devoid of merits” and was filed “obviously, for ulterior design”.