Cannot gag press: SC on plea against reporting TJ event

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday refused to pass any interim order on a plea filed by a Muslim body seeking to restrain a section of media from allegedly spreading communal hatred in connection with the Nizamuddin Markaz incident in Delhi.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and M.M. Shantanagoudar said that “we will not gag the press.”

The observation from the apex court came on a plea filed by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind seeking direction to the Centre to stop the dissemination of fake news and take strict action against certain sections of the media for “spreading bigotry and communal hatred” in connection with Nizamuddin Markaz where the Tablighi Jamaat held a religious congregation last month, which led to a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in the country.

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The bench, which heard the matter through video conferencing, asked the petitioners to include the Press Council of India (PCI) as a party in the case and posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

The plea filed through advocate Ejaz Maqbool said, “By communalising the issue and demonising the entire Muslim community, the actions of the media pose a serious threat to the life and liberty of Muslims across the country. The demonisation is also an infringement of the right to live with dignity which is also covered under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

The petitioner’s counsel on Monday claimed that reports from certain sections of media constantly talked about Tablighi Jamaat spreading coronavirus in the country.

To this, the bench replied, “We think you should add the Press Council of India as a party to the case… It is a necessary party to this case, include them thereafter we will hear this.”

The petitioner”s counsel claimed people are being targeted due to adverse media reports. The bench noted that it would put in place solid long term measures, and after the court take cognizance, people will understand.

The petitioner urged the apex court to issue directions to prevent the communalisation of the Nizamuddin Markaz issue by certain sections of media and electronic media.

“Subsequently on March 31, the incident made national headlines. However, certain sections of the media, instead of exercising restraint, reported the entire incident with a communal flavour, with phrases such as ”Corona Jihad”, ”Corona Terrorism”, ”Islamic Insurrection”, ”Corona Bombs” etc. It was apparent that the unfortunate incident of the Tablighi Jamaat was being used to demonise and blame the entire Muslim community,” the petition said.

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