The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Friday said to the Supreme Court as a reply to the response filed by the Markaz Nizammudin that there was no objectionable content filed against the Markaz by the media.
The response of the Ministry was to a petition filed by the Jamiat- Ul Hind which iterated that there was an attempt by the media to demonize Tablighi Muslims as people responsible for the COVID-19 crisis in India.
The Petition was heard by the Bench comprising the Chief Justice A Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna, and V Ramasubramanian.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in an affidavit filed to the Supreme Court in reply to the petition argued that a blanket gag order which was asked by the Markaz may violate Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.
The Ministry also in its affidavit said that the blanket gag order on all media channels may also violate the right of the citizens to know about the happenings in the society and also the right of the journalists in reporting the right news.
The court also observed the comments from the other respondents such as the National Broadcasting Association and also the Press Council of India which was represented by Nisha Bhambani and Preetesh Kapoor.
Nisha Bhambani as the counsel of NBA said that “We have received around 100 complaints and we are going to issue notices (to media organizations)”
Preetesh Kapoor of the PCI said that they have taken up the 50 complaints regarding the objectionable content and they are trying to investigate the complaints.
The Supreme Court observed that it feels handicapped to make the decision and has sought the opinions of the respondents to reach a final decision, the bench thereby suggested the opinions of the NBA who was in charge of Broadcasting media in India.
The Counsel from the Jamiat headed by advocate Dushyant Dave said that the NBA was an advisory board and cannot be asked for expert opinion on the case filled as it can take the cognizance of the complaints filed before it.
The Jamiat also cited some reports of the media which was said earlier to demonize the Markaz attendees as villains and also they were reports that they violated the COVID-19 protocol.
The Centre in reply to this argument said that these facts are neither false nor true per se and cannot be censored and it further argued that if they are censored it may violate the Freedom of Speech and Expression in the Indian Constitution and these reports may be offensive and cannot be ground for censoring or gag order.
It said that dissemination of facts by the media, prima facie, does not amount to attack religion or religious communities and the same also does not amount to visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or words/opinions which promote communal attitudes.
The Court has instructed the Jamath to file a response affidavit to the arguments of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and post the matter in the hearings on August 26.