SC to hear PILs on BBC documentary on 2002 Gujarat riots next week

NEW DELHI, 30 Jan: The Supreme Court will hear pleas challenging the Centre’s decision to block a BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots on Monday next week.

A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud on Monday took note of the submissions of lawyer ML Sharma and senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for veteran journalist N Ram and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, seeking urgent listing of their separate PILs on the issue.

At the outset of the proceedings, lawyer Sharma, who has filed a PIL in his personal capacity, mentioned the plea and sought urgent hearing.

“It will be listed on Monday,” said the bench, also comprising Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala.

“People were being arrested. Please list it urgently,” Sharma submitted.

“You can speak to social media from elsewhere. It will be listed on Monday,” the bench said.

Minutes later, senior advocate CU Singh mentioned the separate plea on the issue filed by Ram and Bhushan. He made a mention of tweets by Ram and Bhushan

 being deleted allegedly by using emergency powers. He also said that students in Ajmer were rusticated for streaming the BBC documentary.

“We will list,” the CJI said.

Sharma filed the PIL against the Centre’s decision to block the documentary, alleging that it is “malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional.”

The PIL also urged the apex court to call and examine the BBC documentary – both Parts 1 and 2 – and sought action against persons who were responsible and involved directly and indirectly with the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Sharma said that in his PIL he has raised a constitutional question and the top court has to decide whether citizens have the right under Article 19 (1) (2) to see news, facts and reports on the 2002 Gujarat riots.

He has sought a direction to quash the information & broadcasting ministry’s order of 21 January, 2023, terming it illegal, malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional.

The plea claimed that the BBC documentary has “recorded facts” which are also “evidence” and can be used to further the cause of justice for the victims.

On 21 January, the Centre issued directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the controversial BBC documentary India: The Modi Question. (PTI)