BBC documentary ban: The Supreme Court has also directed the Centre to produce original records relating to the takedown order.
The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from the central government on pleas challenging its decision to block a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The court has listed the matter for hearing in April, giving the Centre three weeks to respond.
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A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and MM Sundresh issued notices to the government and others on the pleas filed by veteran journalist N Ram, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
It agreed to hear their plea challenging the government's takedown orders on the BBC documentary 'India: The Modi Question' under the IT rules.
It also issued a notice on the plea filed by lawyer M L Sharma against the Centre's decision to block the documentary, alleging it was "malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional."
The apex court also directed the Centre to produce original records relating to the takedown order. It, however, refused to pass interim orders to protect students facing disciplinary action and possible expulsion for screening the debated documentary.
Over the past weeks, the documentary and its allegations against Modi have led to nationwide controversies resulting in students across universities getting detained.
”We are issuing notices. Counter affidavit be filed within three weeks. Rejoinder within two weeks after that,” the bench said.
Senior Advocate CU Singh, appearing for Ram, Moitra and Bhushan, who filed the plea, told the Supreme Court that the Centre had invoked emergency powers under the IT Rules order to take the BBC documentary down without putting them in the public domain.
Furthermore, the order was also used to take down tweets linking and referring to the BBC documentary, he claimed. Tweets by Ram and Bhushan were deleted allegedly by using emergency powers.
Under the IT Rules, however, a takedown order must be made public within 48 hours, Singh added.
The government had invoked emergency powers under the Information Technology Rules, 2021 to remove clips and links to the documentary that have been shared on various social media platforms and other intermediary websites.
The PIL also urged the Supreme Court to call and examine the two-part BBC documentary and sought action against people responsible and involved directly and indirectly in the 2002 Gujarat riots, as depicted in Episode 1 of the series.
With agency inputs.
First Published: Feb 3, 2023 1:09 PM IST
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