he Supreme Court Thursday slammed the Central Government for filing an ‘evasive’ and ‘brazen’ affidavit in a matter pertaining to the communalization of the Tablighi Jamaat event by a section of the media.
“You cannot treat the Court the way you are treating. Some of your junior officers have filed the affidavit. It is extremely evasive, does not respond to the incidents cited by the petitioner,” CJI Bobde told the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
SG Mehta undertook to file a fresh affidavit under the signature of the Secretary of the Department.
The Court was hearing a PIL seeking action against the media for communalising the coronavirus pandemic in light of the Tablighi Jamaat meeting held in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin area in early March.
The petition, filed by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, had claimed that the media had communalised the Nizamuddin Markaz event and that some sections of the print and electronic media had “demonised the entire Muslim community”.
“Does the Government have any power to ban signals?” the CJI asked while pointing out that power under the Cable Television Network Act was exercisable only with relation to Cable TV and not to television signals.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave appearing for the petitioner said that the Centre had used the same Act to control TV channels.
Just because they have exercised it does not mean it is mandated by law; they must exercise the power that is only vested in them, the CJI responded.
Dave also objected to a part in the Central government’s affidavit which stated that the petitioners were trying to muzzle the freedom of speech by targeting the media. The bench, however, said that everyone was entitled to say what they feel and believe.
“Like you are entitled to say a lot of things, they are too. We must also tell you that freedom of speech is the most abused freedom in recent times,” CJI Bobde said.
The bench, which also comprised Justices A S Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, adjourned the hearing by two weeks in anticipation of the Centre’s fresh affidavit.