The Supreme Court will today take up the requests challenging the centre’s decision to block the controversial BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 2002 Gujarat riots.
The lead appeal was filed by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, veteran journalist N Ram and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan.
In their appeal to the top court, they have sought a direction to restrain the centre from curbing their right to “receive and disseminate information” on the two-part BBC series called “India: The Modi Question”
“All citizens including the press have the fundamental right to view, form an informed opinion, critique, report on, and lawfully circulate the contents of the documentary,” it said.
The appeal has also sought quashing of “all orders directly or indirectly censoring” the information shared on social media.
Last week, advocate CU Singh – appearing for the three petitioners – had said that the centre has invoked emergency powers under IT Rules to remove the links about the documentary from social media.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and MM Sundresh will hear their request.
A separate appeal was filed by advocate ML Sharma calling the centre’s ban on the documentary “malafide, arbitrary, and unconstitutional”.
Advocate Sharma has urged the top court to examine both parts of the documentary and act against those who were involved – directly and indirectly – with the 2002 Gujarat riots.
On January 21, the centre asked Twitter and YouTube to take down links of the controversial documentary. India has called the two-part BBC series a “propaganda piece designed to push a discredited narrative”.
The descriptor of BBC’s two-part series calls it a “look at tensions between Indian PM Narendra Modi and India’s Muslim minority, investigating claims about his role in the 2002 riots that left over a thousand dead.”
A Supreme Court-appointed probe found no evidence of any wrongdoing by PM Modi, who was Chief Minister of Gujarat when the riots broke out in February 2002. The Special Investigation Team, in a report a decade after the riots, exonerated PM Modi citing “no prosecutable evidence”.
In June last year, the Supreme Court backed the clearance to PM Modi and said the case was “devoid of merits” and was filed “obviously, for ulterior design”.
The BBC says the series examines how “Narendra Modi’s premiership has been dogged by persistent allegations about the attitude of his government towards India’s Muslim population” and “a series of controversial policies” implemented by PM Modi after his re-election in 2019, including “the removal of Kashmir’s special status guaranteed under Article 370” and “a citizenship law that many said treated Muslims unfairly”, which “has been accompanied by reports of violent attacks on Muslims by Hindus.”
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