While pulling up the Centre for its “evasive” and “brazen” affidavit on media coverage of the Tablighi Jamaat event earlier this year, the Supreme Court said on Thursday that freedom of speech and expression is the “most abused right” in recent times.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde was hearing pleas of Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind and others who maintained that a section of media was spreading heightened communal hatred over the Tablighi Jamaat congregation during the onset of Covid-19 pandemic.
“Freedom of speech and expression is the most abused right in recent times,” the apex court said.
The Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind has filed a plea in the apex court seeking directions to the Centre to stop the dissemination of “fake news” related to a religious gathering at Markaz Nizamuddin and take strict action against those responsible for it.
It has asserted that the unfortunate incident of Tablighi Jamaat was being used to “demonise” and blame the entire Muslim community and sought to restrain the media from publishing/airing such reports.
The apex court sought an affidavit from the I&B secretary with details of steps taken in the past to stop motivated media reporting in such cases.
During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, the bench said it has examined the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and section 20 deals with power to prohibit operation of cable television network in public interest.
“We want to tell you something, this power is exercisable to the TV programme but not broadcast signal. This act does not help. Government has filed an affidavit in which it has said an advisory has been issued,” the bench observed.
Dave referred to the power under the Cable Television Act and said many a times government has rightly exercised its power.
The bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that affidavit has been filed by the additional secretary and he has not addressed the allegations. Adding that the affidavit contained “unnecessary” and “nonsensical” averments with regard to media reporting in Tablighi Jamaat issue.