SC agrees to hear PIL challenging 'ban' on BBC documentary on Feb 6

People watch the BBC documentary "India: The Modi Question", on a screen installed at the Marine Drive junction under the direction of the district Congress committee, in Kochi on January 24, 2023. File Photo: Arun CHANDRABOSE / AFP

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear public interest litigations (PILs) challenging the ban on BBC's documentary 'India: The Modi Question' on February 6.

On January 21, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting reportedly invoked its emergency powers under the IT Rules 2021 to direct the removal of the links from YouTube and Twitter, when the first part of the documentary, which deals with the Gujarat riots of 2002.

Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of the state then.

A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud took note of the submissions of lawyer M L Sharma and senior advocate C U Singh, appearing for veteran journalist N Ram and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, seeking urgent listing of their separate PILs on the issue.

At the outset of the proceedings, lawyer Sharma, who has filed a PIL in his personal capacity, mentioned the plea and sought an urgent hearing. "It will be listed on Monday," said the bench, also comprising Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala.

In his petition, Sharma argued the Centre's decision was "malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional". 

The citizens have the right to see news, facts and reports on the 2002 Gujarat riots, and the Centre's decision has infringed on citizens' right to information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. 

The plea claimed the BBC documentary has "recorded facts" which are also "evidence" and can be used to further the cause of justice for the victims.

Senior Advocate Singh said that the Centre has not yet formally published the blocking order. Students are getting rusticated from universities for screening the documentary, he added.

He added that the tweets of Ram and Advocate Bhushan were taken down at the insistence of the Government.

(With inputs from PTI, Live Law)

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