The Supreme Court on Friday, while hearing a batch of pleas seeking steps to be taken against hate speech incidents, came down heavily on Television news channels. The apex court said television channels in India are creating divisions in the society since such channels are driven by agenda and compete to sensationalise news and act as per the dictates of their funders, LiveLaw reported.
Centre and NBSA face questions from SC
The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) and the Central government were questioned by the bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna on how to control such broadcasts.
Justice Joseph, in scathing observation, said: “Channels are basically competing with each other. They sensationalize it. How do you control this? Freedom of speech and expression is important. Problem with freedom is it is about the audience. Can the audience dish out or understand the agenda. Agenda is serving someone else. Then there is money behind the channel. The point also is who puts money, they will dictate.”
TV channels creating divisions in society: SC
The bench stressed that such channels are creating fissures in the society.
“When you claim freedom of speech and expression, you must act like you deserve it. Otherwise what dignity is left for us,“ Justice Joseph said.
The Centre, in its response on tackling hate speech, said it is planning to introduce comprehensive amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) KM Nataraj, representing the Centre, said: “We are contemplating a separate amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code. That is the stand of the Union of India.“
The top court was hearing a batch of pleas seeking steps to be taken against hate speech incidents.
‘NBSA not doing anything’: SC
At the hearing, the SC also made strong statements on the functioning of the NBSA.
“Unfortunately, you are not doing anything,” the top court said.
The NBSA, in its defence, claimed that certain channels like Sudarshan TV and Republic TV do not fall within its jurisdiction.
“The only problem is Sudarshan TV and Republic TV who are not part of our network and that is why they are not under our jurisdiction. Our code should be made a part of program code and then it can apply across the board,” counsel representing the NBSA said.
SC stresses on roles of anchors in fueling hate
What action can be taken against news anchors when they themselves fuel such hate, the SC bench further asked.
“If the anchor of a tv program is themselves part of the problem then what. NBSA should not be biased. One sided program cannot happen,” the bench highlighted.
The Bench further stressed that in a live program, the fairness of the program depends on the anchor.
“Thus, if fine is there on anchors they will know that their is a price to pay for this. Anchors can be taken off too,” the SC said.
“These cases are mostly about communal and religious issues. people in the media must learn how to conduct and they must realise they occupy positions of great strength and who watches them cannot immediately find out what is true,” the court observed.