The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Central Government on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking to restrict the ‘assassination’ of the dignity of an individual, community, religious saint, religious and political organisation by electronic broadcasting channels in the name of freedom of the ‘Press’.
The plea also sought a direction to constitute an independent authority to be known as the Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India to regulate the electronic media.
After hearing the senior advocate for the petitioner, a three-judge bench comprising CJI S A Bobde, Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian asked Centre to respond to the plea within four weeks.
The petitioner, Reepak Kansal- a practicing lawyer, in his plea, contended that the electronic broadcasting channels did not come under the ambit of the Press Council of India – a statutory authority.
The plea, thus, argued that due to the absence of regulation and legislation, ‘uncontrolled’ and ‘un-regulated’ electronic broadcasting channels, had been attacking the foundation of unity and integrity of India and working against its Sovereignty, Socialism, Secularism and democracy.
It was also contended that some thought needed to be given to the question of legal control over electronic broadcasting sources i.e. like radio, television and internet protocol television, especially since, in the name of journalism, there was a proliferation of ‘fake news’, ‘bad journalism’ or ‘hate speeches’. As a result, these electronic sources became a platform to assassinate the dignity of an individual or religious and political organizations.
“The hate speeches by the anchors with the same faces of panelists have been using bad words/ abusive language. Some of these broadcasting electronic channels have been targeting one community and instigating one community towards another community”, the plea stated.
The plea alleged that due to said illegal activities in the name of journalism by these self-regulated broadcasting channels; India’s ranking fell from 138 to 140 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index
Further, it was argued that the airwaves are public property and it was necessary to regulate the use of such airwaves in the national and public interest, particularly with a view to ensuring proper dissemination of content and in the widest possible manner.