The Supreme Court sent notice to the Centre today and asked for a report on the appeal against the suspension of a divisive BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and charges related to the 2002 Gujarat riots within three weeks.
The Supreme Court requested a copy of the original documentation of the decision to remove the documentary from circulation.
A plea requesting for the Centre to stop censoring the documentary was filed by veteran journalist N Ram, activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra.
The petitions contest the use of emergency authorities to obstruct the documentary and take down social media links. According to a related appeal filed by attorney ML Sharma, the Center never formally announced the blocking decision, which he described as “malafide, capricious, and unconstitutional.”
On January 21, the Center issued directives for the blocking of numerous YouTube videos and Twitter messages containing links to the divisive documentary “India: The Modi Question” under the emergency provisions of the Information Technology Rules, 2021.
According to the petitioners, the Centre must publish the emergency blocking orders within 48 hours as per the guidelines.
Following the prohibition, the two-part BBC series was shared by a number of opposition figures, including Mahua Moitra, and opposition groups and student organisations held screenings for the general public.
After being denied permission to hold screenings, students fought with college administrators and the police on various campuses. Some of them were also briefly jailed.
After British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak distanced himself from the series and said he “doesn’t agree with the characterisation” of his Indian counterpart in the UK’s parliament by Pakistan-origin MP Imran Hussain, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry reportedly instructed Twitter and YouTube to block the first episode of the BBC documentary.
The documentary has been branded by the administration as “propaganda” that lacks objectivity and exhibits a colonial mentality.
No evidence of misconduct by PM Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat when riots broke out throughout the state in February 2002, was discovered by an investigation ordered by the Supreme Court.