Ban on BBC documentary: SC issues notice to Centre, seeks to produce original documents

  • The apex court issued notices to the Centre and others on pleas filed by N Ram, Mahua Moitra, Prashant Bhushan and lawyer M L Sharma
  • Senior Counsel CU Singh, representing the petitioners, sought an earlier date for the next hearing but the bench declined
  • One of the petitioners has alleged that the ban was “malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional”.

The Supreme Court on Friday sought the response from the Central government on a plea challenging orders to block the BBC documentary on Gujarat riots which reportedly critically examined the role of Narendra Modi, then chief minister the state.

The court has asked the government to produce the original documents pertaining to the ban on the next date of hearing, which is likely to be in April. The court refused to grant any interim order in the case as the government is yet to file their response to the plea.

The plea on ban on BBC documentary, ‘India: The Modi Question’, on online platforms and social media was filed by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, veteran journalist N Ram and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan.

The apex court bench, comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and M M Sundresh issued notices to the Centre and others on pleas filed by Ram, Moitra, Bhushan and lawyer M L Sharma.

Sharma had filed a separate petition and it has now been tagged with similar pleas challenging the government’s decision to block the documentary. The matter is listed for the next hearing in April.

“We are issuing notices. Counter affidavit be filed within three weeks. Rejoinder within two weeks after that. The respondents will also produce original records before this court on the next date of hearing,” said the bench. The bench in the beginning of the hearing also asked the petitioners why they did not approach the high court in the matter.

Senior Counsel CU Singh, representing the petitioners, sought an earlier date for the next hearing but the bench declined.

“There needs to be reply ..rejoinder. Counter to be filed within 3 weeks from service of notice and 2 weeks thereafter for rejoinder,” the bench remarked, according to legal news website Bar and Bench. The top court also said that it cannot pass any interim order without hearing the government and directed it to produce all records on the next hearing date.

“Can we allow the interim prayer without hearing them? We direct respondents to produce original records in next date of hearing,” the court said.

The Supreme Court also acknowledged the fact that people have been accessing the documentary, according to the Outlook report. It had earlier agreed to hear the plea taking note of the submissions of lawyers Sharma and Singh seeking urgent listing of the petitions against the government’s ban on the two-episode BBC series using its emergency powers.

One of the petitioners has alleged that the ban was “malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional”. Law Minister Kiriren Raju had expressed strong feelings after Ram’s plea, tweeting, “This is how they waste the precious time of Hon’ble Supreme Court where thousands of common citizens are waiting and seeking dates for justice”.


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