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Delhi HC Notice to BBC on Gujarat NGO’s Defamation Plea Against ‘The Modi Question’

The plea claims that the documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots, when Modi was chief minister, “defames India.”
Delhi HC

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday issued notice to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on a plea by an NGO claiming its documentary "India: The Modi Question" casts a slur on the reputation of India and makes false and defamatory imputations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian judiciary.

 Besides the BBC (UK), Justice Sachin Datta also issued notice to the BBC (India) on the plea filed by Gujarat-based NGO Justice On Trial.

The plea said BBC (UK) is the national broadcaster of the United Kingdom and has released the news documentary -- "India: The Modi Question" -- which has two episodes and BBC (India) is its local operations office. It said the two episodes have been published in January 2023.

The documentary relates to the 2002 Gujarat riots when Modi was the state's chief minister.

The high court said, "Issue notice to the respondents through all permissible modes", and listed it for further hearing on September 25.

 The government had banned the documentary soon after it was released.

 Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the NGO, said the suit for defamation against the BBC is in relation to the documentary which has "defamed" India and the whole system including the judiciary.

The plaintiff organisation, which is stated to be a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and also registered as a public trust under the provisions of the Bombay Public Trust, 1950, has filed the suit for damages and has also sought permission to file as an indigent person.

It was contended that the documentary/ publication contains content which casts a slur on the reputation of the country and also makes false and defamatory imputations and insinuations against the Prime Minister of India, the Indian Judiciary and the Indian criminal justice system.

It said the conduct of the broadcaster is actionable and has made them liable to damages.

The Centre had earlier issued directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the BBC documentary, which was described by the Ministry of External Affairs as a "propaganda piece" that lacks objectivity and reflects a colonial  mindset.

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