PIL filed before Supreme Court seeking total ban on BBC for airing ‘India: The Modi Question’

Debjit Mukherjee: A PILpetition has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking a total ban on the BBC for airing the documentary titled, ‘India: The Modi Question’ relating to the 2002 Gujarat riots.


The documentary examines the riots and the role of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat when the riots happened.


The Central government has banned the documentary on social media and online channels though it has been screened in various colleges and universities across the country.


The petition filed before the top court by Vishnu Gupta, President of right wing organisation Hindu Sena and one Beerendra Kumar Singh, a farmer has, besides seeking a total ban on the documentary, also sought investigation into BBC what for the petitioners alleged to be anti-India reporting.


“India’s overall growth has picked up momentum since 2014 under the Prime Ministership of PM Narendra Modi, is not being digested by anti-India lobby, media particularly BBC. Therefore, the BBC has been biased against India and Indian Government,” the petition said.


Vishnu Gupta submitted that the Supreme Court itself had given quietus to the cases relating to Gujarat violence of 2002 as no evidence was found to show the attacks were either inspired or instigated by any minister of State of Gujarat.


“It is relevant to mention that even the Nanavati Commission Report on 2020 Gujarat Violence has given categorical finding about no evidence to connect any Minister of the Gujarat Government with the violence. Further submitted that in 2022, this Hon’ble Court has rejected an Appeal against the clean chit given by Special Investigation Team (SIT). This Hon’ble Court has been pleased to accept the SIT report and held that the plea was an attempt to keep the pot boiling,” the plea said.


Therefore, the documentary film implicating Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not only reflective of anti-Narendra Modi propaganda to tarnish his image but also anti Hinduism propaganda by the BBC to destroy the social fabric of India, it was contended.


It was further alleged that BBC has an anti-Indian stance since the time of Indian independence.


“The BBC has been indulging against anti-India and anti-Indian Government propaganda in post independent regime India. This is evident from the fact that during 1967 to 1969, a documentary film was made in Calcutta which highlighted impressionist portraits Bharat. The said documentary film was telecast in the year 1970 by the BBC,” the petitioner pointed out.


Subsequently, the Central government led by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi banned BBC in India for two years, it was highlighted.


“The British employees of the BBC posted in India were asked to leave the country and the Indian employees were asked to leave the corporation,” the plea contended.


The petitioner further highlighted that in the year 1975, 41 Members of Parliament belonging to Congress party had issued a signed statement accusing the BBC of broadcasting “notoriously anti-India stories and asked the government not to allow the BBC to report again from India soil.”


The petitioner submitted that he had given a representation to the Union Home Ministry on January 27 to ban the BBC but no action has been taken till date.


The petitioner said that the right to free speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution is not an absolute right but is qualified by Article 19(2).


“Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India is not absolute right and the same is subject to the reasonable restrictions provided under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. The BBC cannot conduct the adverse publicity by showing or projecting the India and democratically elected Prime Minister of India as culprit in spite of the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India,” the plea said.