A Delhi court on Wednesday issued summons to the BBC, non-profit body Wikimedia and digital library Internet Archive in a defamation case related to a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, reported The Hindu.
The defamation complaint, filed by Bharatiya Janata Party member Binay Kumar Singh, has alleged that even though the documentary has not been officially released in India, a Wikipedia page provides links to watch it and that the content is still available on Internet Archive, reported PTI. Wikimedia Foundation funds the Wikipedia website.
On January 17, the BBC had released the first episode of the two-part documentary India: The Modi Question. The documentary showed that a team sent by the British government to inquire into the 2002 Gujarat riots had found that Modi, who was then the state’s chief minister, was “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to the violence.
Official records show that 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed in the riots.
The documentary also featured a former senior diplomat, one of the investigators sent by the United Kingdom government, who said that the violence had been planned by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
On January 21, Centre had directed YouTube and Twitter to remove links to the documentary from its platform.
In his plea, BJP member Singh alleged that the documentary contains defamatory and baseless allegations against the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Modi. He sought directions from the court to restrain BBC, Wikipedia and Internet Archive from publishing the documentary, reported The Hindu.
Singh has also sought the court to pass an order preventing the three platforms from publishing any other defamatory material pertaining to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
“The allegations made against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad are motivated by a malicious intent to defame the organizations and its millions of members/ volunteers,” the petition contended, reported the newspaper.
The court has directed the three platforms to file their response within 30 days, reported The Hindu. The matter will be next heard on May 11.
A month after the BBC released the documentary, the Income Tax department had surveyed the British broadcaster’s offices in Delhi and Mumbai. The tax body claimed that BBC’s income in India is not commensurate with the scale of operations in the country.
Last month, the Enforcement Directorate also registered a case of violation of foreign exchange rules against BBC India. The central agency has booked the media company under Foreign Exchange Management Act after it scrutinised foreign remittances of the British broadcaster’s India unit.