“Encouraging Hate Speech In Guise Of Freedom of Expression Is Clearly Against Ideology Of The Constitution” : Journalist Sashi Kumar

In the ongoing Sudarshan News Case regarding the “UPSC Jihad” controversy, Sashi Kumar, the founder of India’s first regional satellite TV channel Asianet has filed an intervention plea before the Supreme Court against the show “Bindass Bol.” 

The show promo was aired on Sudarshan News on August 28, 2020, spreading hate and false news targeting the Muslim community and defaming UPSC. Many civil servants, media houses and police associations seeked actions against the show and called it a misuse of media and journalism. 

The Editor-in-Chief of Sudarshan News, Suresh Chavhanke targeted and defamed the Jamia Millia Islamia University and in response to this, the teachers association of the university and students filed a plea against the show. Delhi High Court in response to the plea asked the show to be on standby. Although the show still aired on TV and Suresh Chavhanke talked about controversial topics like  ‘Islamic Conspiracies’, ‘UPSC Jihad’, ‘Hindu Nation’ etc. 

The Central Government allowed Sudarshan News to air the show “Bindas Bol” again on September 10, 2020 if they follow the rules and guidelines and not disparage UPSC and spread hate. 

The Sudarshan TV seeked application to the Supreme Court regarding live telecast of the show “Bindas Bol”. The Court on September 15 2020, restrained the channel to telecast episodes saying that the intent of the episodes appeared to vilify the Muslim community. Suresh Chavhanke, as the editor and director of Sudarshan News, in response to the SC questioned the right to freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. 

The three judge bench comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice K M Joseph  at the Supreme Court, had said that the claims made by the channel are ‘insidious’ and it defames and questions the credibility of the UPSC exams and was a great disservice to the nation. 

“Here is one anchor who says one particular community is trying to infiltrate UPSC. Can anything be more insidious (than such claims). Such allegations affect the stability of the country and also cast aspersions on the credibility of the UPSC exam,” says Justice DY Chandrachud.

The bench asks “This is the real issue. Whenever you show them joining civil services, you show ISIS. You want to say that Muslims joining civil services is a part of a deep-rooted conspiracy. Can the media be allowed to target a whole set of communities.” 

The bench also talks about the culturally diverse nation and a particular community cannot be targeted. “Let a message go to the media that a particular community cannot be targeted. We have to look after a nation of the future which is cohesive and diverse,and that the country cannot survive with such an agenda.

Various media houses and associations gave their opinion on the Sudarshan News case including Sashi Kumar, the founder of Asianet, who filed an intervention plea against Sudarshan News. He affirms that spreading hate speech is not a part of freedom of speech and expression instead it violates Section 153 of Indian Penal Code which explains the punishment to persons who indulge in wanton vilification or attacks upon the religion, race, place of birth, resident, language etc of any particular group or class or upon the founders or prophets of any religion. 

Sashi Kumar in his petition says, “It is not possible either for the state or for the private players to justify a speech amounting to an offence in the guise of religious freedom or free speech. It is important to guard against the State not only when it curtails the freedom of speech but also when it encourages the hate speech in the guise of freedom of expression which is clearly against the ideology of the Constitution.” 

Justice Chandrachud during the last hearing said, “If it was a balance between the free speech and the dignity of an individual, we can tell him to file a civil suit. But here the balance is to be drawn between free speech and a community”

The news is in transition as the Sudarshan News Case is still going and the court yet has to take a decision.

By Shrungeri Chauhan