The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) be also made a party to the pleas alleging that a section of the media has been fanning communal hatred by portraying Tablighi Jamaat congregation, held in March in Delhi, as being one of the main reasons for the spread of Covid-19.
While issuing notices to the Centre and the Press Council of India (PCI), a Bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy said it takes all matters “seriously”, when a lawyer urged it to do so.
It asked the authorities to respond within two weeks to the pleas seeking action against some media houses for allegedly spreading communal hatred over the congregation and also apprise it of the actions taken with regard to alleged violation of the Cable Television (Regulation) Act by them.
“The petitioners (Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and others) are directed to implead the NBA as party respondent in the array of parties. Issue notice to all the respondents as also the newly added respondent(s),” the Bench said in the order, passed in the hearing conducted through video conferencing.
It said the copies of the petitions be served to the Centre and others during the day and fixed the matters for hearing on June 15.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Jamiat, alleged that fake news was “galore” in relation to Tablighi Jamaat issue and such reports have damaged the secular fabric of the nation.
Circulation of such fake news constituted an offence and strict actions were needed, he added.
The top court had on April 13 said it would “not gag the press” and had asked Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind to implead the PCI as a party to the case.
It had said it would not pass any interim order in the matter at this stage.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has sought directions to the Centre to stop dissemination of “fake news” and take strict action against those responsible for it.
The plea has alleged that unfortunate incident of Tablighi Jamaat was being used to “demonise” and blame the entire Muslim community.
As per the media reports, at least 9,000 people had participated in the religious gathering at Tablighi Jamaat’s headquarters in Nizamuddin West and the congregation became a key source for the spread of Covid-19 in India as many of the participants had travelled to various parts of the country for missionary works.
The plea has sought directions to the Centre to stop dissemination of fake news and take strict action against the section of the media spreading bigotry and communal hatred in relation to the Nizamuddin Markaz issue.
“It is submitted that such reporting has triggered communal antagonism and has also perpetrated hatred, resulting in fissiparous tendencies gaining foothold, undermining and affecting communal harmony,” the plea has said.
The petition further stated that this “demonisation” of the community has led to serious “threat to life and liberty of Muslims”, and has thus led to the violation of their “right to life under Article 21” of the Constitution.
It has also sought direction to all sections of media to strictly comply with the Supreme Court directions asking them to maintain strong sense of responsibility and ensure that unverified news is not disseminated.
Later, three more similar petitions were filed which were heard together on Wednesday.