Television programmes and news that instigates people to violence should be actively controlled, the Supreme Court told the government today and suggested that the laws regarding this be tightened. “Prevention of instigation is an important part of maintaining law and order and the government has done nothing to address these issues,” the court said in the backdrop of a series of controversies over the matter last year.
“Fair and truthful reporting is not a problem. When projected in a manner to agitate others, (it is a problem),” said Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, who was leading a bench of Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
The court — which was hearing petitions by Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind, Peace Party and others regarding the media coverage of the Tablighi Jamaat meet in Delhi last year — has issued notices to the government, the Press Council of India and the Broadcasting Association. The petitioners said the meeting, which had turned out to be a Covid hotspot, was communalized by a section of the media.
When the Centre argued that it has stopped telecast in a few cases, Chief Justice Bobde said, “Fact is that there are programmes which has the effect of instigating people. You (the government) do nothing about it. It can happen either way. Instigation can be against either community.”
Referring to the internet shutdown on Republic Day after the violence during the tractor rally held by protesting farmers, the Chief Justice said, “Yesterday, you shut down internet due to farmer’s rally. The focus is not on farmers, but you have shut internet mobile. These are problems that can arise everywhere.”
The court said it wanted the government to refine the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act. “Just one line in the law can do,” the judges said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said in some cases, action taken against the television channel and will convey the suggestions of the court to the Govt
“We can give details on how many cases government powers are used. But in a live chat show, there is no control, and if one says something atrocious, it cannot be stopped. There is group, which is monitoring, and action taken, and we had stopped telecast for a week or so,” Tushar Mehta said.
‘We are not interested in stopping people saying anything,” said Justice Bobde. “We are concerned with broadcast that can instigate people leading to riots. These days people say anything on television. Let them do it.”
The lawyer for the Broadcasting Association told court that the agency has powers and has taken action. It serves as deterrent and the channels had tendered apology
The case will be taken up again in after three weeks.