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SC asks Centre to create regulatory mechanism for electronic media

The top court expressed displeasure with the government's response in the Tablighi Jamaat case.

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New Delhi: Supreme Court asked the Centre to file a fresh affidavit dealing with mechanism to regulate electronic media under the Cable TV Network Act while hearing the pleas filed by Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind and others alleging that a section of the media was spreading communal hatred over Tablighi Jamaat congregation during the onset of pandemic. It also expressed displeasure over the Union government’s affidavit in the same case.

A bench headed by CJI S A Bobde said that the Centre should consider setting up a regulatory mechanism to deal with such content on TV. It sought to know from the Centre about mechanisms available for it under the Cable TV Network Regulation Act.

The apex court asked the government to create and apprise it of the mechanism. “We want to know as to what is the mechanism to deal with these contents on television. If there is no regulatory mechanism then you create one. Regulation cannot be left to organisation like NBSA.”

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta on behalf of the Centre replied that it has ample powers to regulate contents of TV channels but takes a very cautious approach, as right to free speech as a fundamental right is available to media.

The court then asked the solicitor general to create a mechanism for addressing grievances against fake news circulated by TV channels and media, if none such is available currently. “What is shown in TV channels is of great consequences for the country,” it said.

The ministry of information and broadcasting, in its affidavit filed on 13 November, had informed the Supreme Court that the petition against communal reporting of Tablighi Jamaat incident was based on "vague assertions" and news reports published by certain fact check websites, and the same cannot be relied upon to contend that entire media was spreading communal disharmony.

The plea before the top court sought directions to the Centre to stop dissemination of fake news and take strict action against the section of the media spreading bigotry and communal hatred in relation to the incident.

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