New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the central government to produce original records relating to its decision to block a BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots.
A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and M M Sundresh issued notices to the government and others on pleas filed by veteran journalist N Ram, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan and lawyer M L Sharma.
Sharma had filed a separate petition and it has now been tagged with similar pleas challenging the government’s decision to block the documentary.
The matter is listed for next hearing in April.
“We are issuing notices. Counter affidavit be filed within three weeks. Rejoinder within two weeks after that. The respondents will also produce original records before this court on the next date of hearing,” the bench said.
At the outset, the bench asked the petitioners why they did not approach the high court in the matter.
Senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for Ram and the others, submitted that the government has invoked the emergency powers under the Information Technology (IT) Rules to block the documentary.
He said he was seeking a direction to the Centre to place on record all the original records.
The Supreme Court said it is also a fact that people have been accessing the documentary.
It had earlier agreed to hear the plea taking note of the submissions of lawyers Sharma and Singh seeking urgent listing of the petitions against the government’s ban on the two-episode BBC series using its emergency powers.
One of the petitioners has also alleged that the ban on the documentary ‘India: The Modi question’ was “malafide, arbitrary and unconstitutional”.
Reacting strongly after Ram filed his plea, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju had tweeted, “This is how they waste the precious time of Hon’ble Supreme Court where thousands of common citizens are waiting and seeking dates for justice”.
Ram and others, in their pleas, have sought a direction to restrain the government from curbing their right to “receive and disseminate information” on the documentary.
“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 as the right to freedom of speech and expression incorporates the right to receive and disseminate information…,” the plea said and referred to several apex court orders on freedom of speech and expression.
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