New Delhi: A request for a complete ban on BBC in India over its documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and allegations linked to the 2002 Gujarat riots was dismissed today by the Supreme Court, which called it ‘entirely misconceived’. ‘How can a documentary affect the country’, the Supreme Court questioned, rejecting a petition by Hindu Sena chief Vishnu Gupta seeking a ban on Britain’s national broadcaster operating in India.
Senior lawyer Pinki Anand, representing the petitioner, argued that the BBC was ‘deliberately maligning India’s image’. The petition also asked for an investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the ‘conspiracy’ behind the documentary. The documentary is a ‘result of deep conspiracy against global rise of India and its Prime Minister’, the petition said. ‘The documentary film by BBC relating to Gujarat violence 2002 implicating Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not only reflective of anti-Narendra Modi cold propaganda broadcast to tarnish his image alone but this is anti-Hinduism propaganda by the BBC to destroy the social fabric of India’, it alleged.
The judges said: ‘How can the Supreme Court pass such orders? The writ petition is entirely misconceived and has no merit and is accordingly dismissed.’ The two-part BBC series, ‘India: The Modi Question’, was taken down from public platforms last month. On January 21, the Centre, using emergency powers under the Information Technology Rules, 2021, directed blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the controversial documentary.
The Supreme Court earlier this month served notice to the Centre on petitions including by veteran journalist N Ram, activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, which asks that the Centre be stopped from censoring the documentary. The petitions challenge the use of emergency powers to block the documentary and remove links from social media. The Centre never formally publicised the blocking order, said a separate petition by lawyer ML Sharma calling the ban on the two-part documentary ‘malafide, arbitrary, and unconstitutional’. The petitioners say the Centre has to publish the emergency blocking orders within 48 hours.
The documentary has been shared by various opposition leaders, including Mahua Moitra, and students’ organisations and opposition parties have organised public screenings. Students clashed with college authorities and the police in several campuses after not being allowed to hold screenings. The government calls the documentary a ‘propaganda piece’ that lacks objectivity and reflects a colonial mindset. A Supreme Court-appointed investigation had found no evidence of wrongdoing by PM Modi, who was Chief Minister of Gujarat when riots broke out across the state in February 2002.