CJI SA Bobde said the central government’s response was silent on a mechanism to regulate television content under the Cable Act.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday expressed displeasure over the Centre’s affidavit in the case related to media reporting of Tablighi Jamaat congregation during the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, and said it should consider setting up a regulatory mechanism to deal with such content on TV.
In a case of role reversal, the Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed to push the Centre to exercise its powers under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act against TV channels to have an effective oversight on the contents of TV programmes even as the Centre argued that it respected the media’s right to free speech and was loath to play the regulator.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it was “dissatisfied and disappointed” by the affidavit filed by the central government.
“First you did not file a proper affidavit and then you filed an affidavit which did not deal with the two important questions. This way it cannot be done Mr Mehta,” a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. “We want to know as to what is the mechanism to deal with these contents on television. If there is no regulatory mechanism then you create one. Regulation cannot be left to organisation like NBSA,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
The hearing came nearly a month after the top court berated the government for having a junior officer file what it called an "extremely offensive and brazen" response.
"Tell us what's the present legal regime you have... you haven't told anything," the top court said. The Solicitor General told the court that a fresh affidavit will be filed.
The Centre has defended the media in this case and said in its response to the Supreme Court that there was "no instance of bad reporting".
The Supreme Court last month pulled up the Centre on its affidavit and said it "must tell us instances of bad reporting" and what action had been taken. "Freedom of speech is one of the most abused freedoms in recent times," Chief Justice SA Bobde had said during the hearing last month.
The top court has been hearing petitions for action against the media for "spreading hatred" over the Tablighi meet at Markaz Nizamuddin earlier this year.
Last Updated 18, Nov 2020, 10:18 AM