You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Supreme Court notice to Centre over pleas challenging move to block BBC documentary on PM Modi

The Indian Express logo The Indian Express 03-02-2023 Express Web Desk
© Provided by The Indian Express

The Supreme Court Friday issued notice to the Centre over pleas against its decision to take down links of BBC’s documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’ from Twitter and YouTube. A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and M M Sundres, while hearing the matter, said the court cannot pass interim directions till it heard what the Centre had to say. The case will come up for hearing next in April.

The apex court also directed the Centre to produce original records relating to its order to take down the documentary. "We are issuing notices. Counter affidavit to be filed within three weeks. Rejoinder within two weeks after that," the bench said.

While one petition was filed by journalist N Ram, Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra and advocate Prashant Bhushan, the other plea was filed by advocate M L Sharma.

Also Read |Tavleen Singh writes: Modi’s futile battle with the media

On January 20, the Centre had ordered YouTube and Twitter to take down links sharing the documentary. Officials said it was found to be “undermining the sovereignty and integrity of India” and had “the potential to adversely impact” the country’s “friendly relations with foreign states” and “public order within the country”.

The documentary focuses on Narendra Modi and his then state government’s response to the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Replay Video

Sharma’s PIL sought quashing of the January 20 order, claiming it is “illegal, malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional.” He wanted the court to examine the documentary and act against persons who were directly and indirectly responsible for the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The related petition pointed out that Bhushan and Moitra had tweeted about the documentary on January 19 and January 22, respectively, sharing links of the URLs where it could be found. However, it said, Bhushan’s tweet was blocked and the link to the URL shared by Moitra removed after the January 20 direction issued by the Secretary, Information & Broadcasting Ministry.

The petitioners in the related plea said the government had not officially placed any document/order or any other information in the public domain “which explains the reasons for the need to exercise its emergency powers… rather than any other mechanism provided in the rules”. It said the ministry “has chosen expediency over necessity and proportionality in their response to the documentary”.

It said the “contents of the BBC Documentary and the tweets by” Bhushan and Moitra are protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression. “…the contents of the documentary series do not fall under any of the restrictions specified in Article 19(2) or restrictions imposed under Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000”, it said.

The petitioners contended that the Supreme Court had in the past “categorically laid down that criticism of the Government or its policies or even the judgment of the Supreme Court…does not tantamount to violating the sovereignty and integrity of India”.

More from The Indian Express

The Indian Express
The Indian Express
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon