The Supreme Court denied two petitions seeking guidelines for the regulation of television news channels and an independent board or media tribunal for the adjudication of complaints regarding the content of such channels.
A bench of Justices Abhay S. Oka and Sanjay Karol stated that viewers had the right to refuse to watch such channels and that the right to free speech and expression of those in the industry must be respected.
Who forces you to view so many channels? If you dislike them, you should not view them. When something incorrect is displayed, perception also plays a role. Does not freedom of expression exist? Even if we say there will be no media trials, how can we halt things on the internet and everywhere else? How can such petitions be answered? Who takes this matter seriously? “It is permissible to not press the TV button,” Justice Oka remarked.
He added that those who are offended by television content have legal recourse.
“On a lighter note, we do not consider seriously what is said about judges on social media and Twitter. Who will establish rules? Tell your clients not to monitor these news channels and to spend their time on something more productive.”
The apex court was hearing two public interest litigations (PILs), one of which was lodged by Reepak Kansal, a lawyer from Delhi. To resolve “sensational reporting,” he sought the formation of an independent regulatory authority for news broadcasters.
According to the Economic Times, Kansal claimed that scandalous coverage of important issues “just for the sake of viewership and notoriety” frequently results in “tarnishing” the reputation of an individual, a community, a religious or political organisation.
The petitioner asserted that the level of provocative content on these channels has led to an increase in public violence.
In particular, he requested that the highest court restrict the “assassination of dignity” of individuals, communities, religious icons, and religious and political groups by these broadcasting channels in the name of “press freedom.”
The other PIL, lodged by filmmaker Nilesh Navalakha and activist Nitin Memane, requested the establishment of a’media tribunal’ to hear and promptly adjudicate complaints against media networks and television channels.
This argument asserted that the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had utterly failed to carry out its responsibilities and enforce the Programme Code, which television channels are expected to follow.
According to the petitioners, self-regulation of such channels cannot be the solution.
In January 2021, the highest court issued a notice in this case. In August of 2021, a notice in the lead petition was issued.
While dismissing the principal petition, the Bench today noted that the petitions were too broad and that a committee composed of a retired judge already existed.
For the petition concerning the formation of a media tribunal, the Bench permitted the attorney to petition the competent High Court and also to submit briefs.
“Why can’t you go to the High Court? Why are you filing an Article 32 petition?” Why should the Supreme Court adjudicate every case? Do you believe the High Courts lack the authority to consider these cases? “Do not forget that we are all products of the High Courts,” commented Justice Oka.
A different division of the nation’s highest court had taken a dim view of the operation of mainstream television news channels. In September, a bench led by Justice (retired) KM Joseph stated that they frequently permit hate speech and then avoid punishment.
Due to the fact that they are agenda-driven and compete to sensationalise news, television channels in India are causing social divisions, according to a recent court ruling.