New Delhi, November 17
Noting that self-regulation by TV channels wasn’t good enough, the Supreme Court on Tuesday made it clear to the Centre that it wanted a statutory regime to regulate TV channels in India.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said self-regulation by TV channels through private bodies such as the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) and National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) wasn’t good enough.
It wondered why a private body such as the NBSA should look into complaints against media.
The top court asked the Centre to create a mechanism to address grievances against fake news circulated by TV channels and media.
“What is shown on TV channels is of great consequences for the country… Create a mechanism under the law if there is none at present,” the Bench told Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta after he submitted that there was no regime for content regulation of electronic media.
It asked the government to inform it in three weeks about putting in place a proper regime to regulate TV channels.
The CJI’s observations came during the hearing of PILs filed by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and Peace Party seeking directions to the Centre to stop the dissemination of “fake news”.
The petitioners demanded strict action against TV channels allegedly spreading communal hatred against Muslim by stating that Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi in March was responsible for the spread of COVID-19.
The Centre refuted the petitioners’ allegations that media was largely communal in reporting the Tablighi Jamaat incident.
In an affidavit filed in the top court, the Centre said the IT Ministry had issued 743 orders of blocking fake or misleading content on social media related to COVID-19.
But the Bench wasn’t happy with the Centre’s affidavit.
“We had asked you to specify how the Cable TV Network Act can be used to control the content of the Cable TV network. Your affidavit is silent on it. Another issue is what steps you can take to deal with such complaints…the mechanism… Your affidavit is silent on it. Please put all these in your amended affidavit. The Centre has the power under the Act,” the Bench told Mehta.
“If you have no mechanism evolve one or we will entrust it to an outside agency,” the CJI said.
Noting that the NBA and the NBSA were self-regulatory bodies, Mehta said the Centre had ample powers to regulate the content of TV channels but it took a very cautious approach as it involved media’s fundamental right to free speech.