The Supreme Court of India has directed the Central Government led by Narendra Modi to produce original records relating to its decision to block a BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots. However, it turned down a plea for an interim order to direct the government to make public its gag order and said the matter would be examined on the next date of hearing.
The top court issued notices to the government and others on pleas filed by veteran journalist N Ram, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan and lawyer M L Sharma.
The SC asked the petitioners why they did not approach the high court in the matter. Senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for Ram and the others, submitted that the government has invoked the emergency powers under the Information Technology (IT) Rules to block the documentary. The Supreme Court said it is also a fact that people have been accessing the documentary.
‘Arbitrary & unconstitutional’
One of the petitioners has also alleged that the ban on the documentary ‘India: The Modi question’ was “malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional”.
Freedom of press
Ram and others, in their pleas, have sought a direction to restrain the government from curbing their right to “receive and disseminate information” on the documentary.
The contents of the BBC documentary are protected under Article 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression) of the Constitution, the plea said, adding that the contents of the series do not fall under any of the restrictions specified in Article 19(2).
Reacting strongly after Ram filed his plea, India’s Law Minister Kiren Rijiju had tweeted, “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.”