New Delhi: The Supreme Court while hearing a Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind petition against fake and motivated news during the Nizammuddin Markaz incident, cited the Internet ban as a preventive measure to contain violence, taken by the authorities during farmers protest in Delhi on January 26.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde emphasized that at some point in time the government has to control news and cited the shutting down of Internet in various parts of the capital following violence on streets on Republic Day.
The Chief Justice said the government shut down the Internet over mobile because of the farmers visit to Delhi and so “couldn’t it do the same when it finds certain news channel indulging in bad reporting, which may lead to violence or targeting a certain community”.
“I’m using the non controversial term… You have shut down internet mobile…These are problems that can arise anywhere…,” said the Chief Justice.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, objected to the word ‘visit’ used by the Chief Justice.
To which, Chief Justice replied that he “deliberately was using a non-controversial word”.
After making this reference to the January 26 incident, when farmers rampaged through the national capital, the top court got back to the hearing on the matter in hand in which various petitioners had objected to the motivated reporting by various media houses against the Muslim community post the Markaz incident that was regarded as a superspreader of Covid in March 2020.
The Chief Justice emphasized that “fair and truthful reporting is normally not a problem, but the problem begins when it is used to agitate others and target a particular community”.
The Chief Justice stressed that “controlling the flow of information, which may cause damage is extremely important and it should be done through preventive measures”.
“It’s as important as providing lathis to policemen…and deploying barricades. It’s an important preventive part of the law and order situation,” said the Chief Justice, drawing an analogy.
The top court said that the government is not doing its bit to control new channels showing programs which instigate a community.
“There are programs which instigated or impacted a community. But as a government, you do nothing,” the Chief Justice told Mehta.
The Chief Justice also told Mehta: “Control over some news is as important as some preventive measure and check law and order situation. I don’t know why you are blind to this. I don’t mean anything offensive but you are doing nothing about it.”
The court has posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks.
Jamiat and others have moved the top court citing bad reporting by various media houses, which demonized the Muslim community in the backdrop of the Nizamuddin Markaz incident.