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Supreme Court issues notice to Centre on ban of “2002 Gujarat riots” BBC documentary.

Supreme Court issues notice to Centre on ban of 2002 Gujarat riots BBC documentary. Centre asked to present records, next hearing set for April. Petitions by journalists, advocates, and politicians claim ban violates freedom of speech and Centre's use of IT Rules emergency powers is unconstitutional.

Story Highlights
  • Supreme Court Notice on Petitions
  • Ban on BBC Documentary on 2002 Gujarat Riots
  • IT Rules Invoked by the Centre
  • Freedom of Speech and Expression

Background of the issue

The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Centre regarding the petitions challenging the ban on the 2002 Gujarat riots BBC documentary. The court has directed the Centre to present the original records of the decision taken and scheduled the next hearing for April. The petitions, which were filed by journalists, advocates, and politicians, argue that the ban on the documentary violates their freedom of speech and expression and the Centre’s invocation of emergency powers under the IT Rules is illegal.

Proceedings in the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has issued notice on petitions challenging the government’s decision to ban a BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots. The court declined to pass an interim order, but directed the Centre to provide the original record of the decision and scheduled the next hearing for April. A bench consisting of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and M.M. Sundresh instructed the Centre to produce the original records at the next hearing in April.

Arguments made in the petitions

Journalist N. Ram, advocate Prashant Bhushan, and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra filed one petition, and advocate M.L. Sharma filed another. The petition by N. Ram and others argued that the Centre invoked emergency powers under the IT Rules to block the documentary. The petition by Sharma claimed that the documentary was banned due to fear of the truth, and sought to quash the January 21 order under the IT Act as illegal, mala fide, arbitrary, unconstitutional, and void ab-initio.

The documentary titled “India: The Modi Question” has been banned on social media and online channels, but some students have screened it on university campuses. Sharma’s petition argued that the documentary reflects the true facts of the 2002 riots and can be used for judicial justice.

A separate petition has been filed by N. Ram, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, and advocate Prashant Bhushan against taking down their tweets with links to the documentary. The plea argued that the contents of the documentary and the tweets are protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and do not fall under any of the restrictions specified in Article 19(2) or the restrictions imposed under Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000.

Current status of the documentary

The government has blocked the sharing of clips from the documentary on social media. However, students’ organizations and opposition parties have organized public screenings to protest against the ban. The plea by N. Ram and others argued that the Supreme Court has already laid down that criticism of the government or its policies does not violate the sovereignty and integrity of India and censoring freedom of speech and expression through opaque orders is arbitrary and violates the Basic Structure of the Constitution of India.

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