Telecast suspension order in India on Comedy Central lifted by Delhi HC

Telecast suspension order in India on Comedy Central lifted by Delhi HC

NEW DELHI: It has turned out to be a comedy of errors. First, the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) of the information & broadcasting ministry had on 17 May told the Viacom18-run channel Comedy Central to shut down for 10 days for carrying some allegedly offensive content from 24 MAy midnight. A Delhi high court supported that decision on 24 May, and the laugh-a-riot channel stopped beaming over India. Three days later, a divisional bench of the Delhi high court has overturned the earlier 10-day suspension order by both the I&B and the high court, allowing Comedy Central to re-appear on Indian TV screens.

Viacom18 group general counsel Sujeet Jain, appeared in person before the bench headed by chief justice D. Murugesan and justice Jayant Nath. The bench upheld the counsel?s plea that the earlier gag order should be set aside and said "The order directing prohibition of the transmission and re-transmission of the channel is stayed till further orders."

The court also gave the government till 2 August to reply to the Viacom18 plea against the 24 May order.

Comedy Central had been ordered to switch off its signals for 10 days starting 00:01 hours on 25 May following an order passed by the IMC of the I&B ministry for airing "obscene" dialogues and "vulgar" words besides being derogatory to women.

The IMC had given a notice to the channel last year and then given it an opportunity of personal hearing with regard to the shows ?Stand Up Club? and ?Popcorn? aired on 26 May and 4 July last year.

Taking a cue from the earlier ban on Movies OK where that channel had got the order stayed on the ground that the notice was too short, the ministry issued the ban order to Comedy Central on 17 May.

Comedy Central, the I&B ministry says, telecast the comedy show "Stand Up Club" at 20:52 hours and a show called "PopCorn" on 4 July at 7:57 pm.

A single bench headed by justice V K Jain had dismissed the Viacom18 plea against the government?s decision, saying the penalty prohibiting telecast of the channel for 10 days cannot be termed as "excessive, harsh or unreasonable."

"Considering that the penalty could be the prohibition of telecast up to 30 days for the first violation and up to 90 days in case of the second violation, the penalty imposed on the channel cannot be said to be excessive or unreasonable."

The ministry had simultaneously banned the transmission of another channel, Manoranjan TV, for seven days for telecasting a film with an adult certificate "Ek Chatur Naar" in the afternoon on 11 February last year. Manoranjan TV will not be transmitted till 00.01 hrs on 1 June.

A spokesperson from the channel has informed that the channel has gone on air at the time of writing.

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