Petition against BBC documentary in the supreme court 

On January 30, the supreme court agreed to list a petition seeking a direction to restrain the government from censoring the documentary titled ‘India: The Modi Question’ by BBC on February 3. 

Image Source:

Senior Advocate C.U Singh made an oral mention of the petition which was filed by senior journalist N.Ram, and advocate Prashant Bhushan for early listing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud. The respondent’s name for this case is s Union of India through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Twitter Communications India Private Limited, and Google India Private Limited.

Uses of information technology rule of 2021

According to the petition Under rule 16, (3) of the Information Technology Rules of 2021 and Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act 2000,  50 Tweets concerning and even containing links to the documentary got blocked by Twitter India where the ministry sent a legal request to do this.  And Mr. Bhushan and Ms. Moitra’s tweets were among those taken down. 

According to reports, the series will criticize Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the riots in 2002. When there was unrest in the State, Mr. Modi was serving as Gujarat’s chief minister.

The petition mentioned that the documentary had been blocked on YouTube and Twitter on January 20 as a result of orders from the Ministry’s Secretary, who had emergency authority under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. This was according to Kanchan Gupta, a senior advisor for the Ministry.

Preservation of peace and harmony through Detention? 

The petitioners mentioned media accounts of Rajasthan Central University students in Ajmer being expelled for watching the movie. To preserve “peace and harmony” on campus, the Jawaharlal Nehru University administration has issued a warning to postpone the screening. They claimed there was information regarding student imprisonment and the presence of riot police on the Delhi campus of Jamia Milia Islamia.

“Criticism of the government, its policies, or even the Supreme Court’s decision does not constitute a violation of India’s sovereignty and integrity… As the right to freedom of speech and expression includes the right to receive and disseminate information, the petition stated that all citizens, including the press, have the fundamental right to view, form an informed opinion about, critique, report on, and lawfully circulate the documentary’s contents.

The petitioners have urged the court to request and invalidate any orders that obstruct the documentary directly or indirectly. They claimed that the order from January 20 and the subsequent processes were not available to the general public.

Restrictions on free speech? 

In their response to the documentary, the government has chosen expediency over proportionality and necessity. Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution protects the material in the BBC documentary and the tweets of Moitra and Bhushan. According to the petition, neither Section 69A of the IT Act nor any restrictions on free expression apply to the documentary series’ content.

It referred to rulings by the Supreme Court that held that a filmmaker’s right to produce and screen his film constituted a component of his fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

According to the petitioners, it was arbitrary to prohibit free speech via ambiguous instructions and to limit the ability to request judicial review.

The petition stated that the powers of the Centre, which include publishing “Codes of Practice,” establishing an interdepartmental committee to hear complaints, and designating a Ministry officer to exercise the powers under Rule 16, were a part of the governmental oversight system that the Bombay High Court had temporarily suspended.

Advocate M.L. Sharma has submitted a different appeal to the Supreme Court over the same problem. It will be heard by the court next week, as promised.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *