The News Broadcasting Standards Authority on Wednesday advised television channels to not show any archival footage of the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and to exercise caution while reporting on the dispute, The Hindu reported.

The advisory was issued while the Supreme Court was hearing closing arguments in the Ayodhya land dispute case. After 40 days of hearings, a five-judge Constitution Bench reserved its judgement on Wednesday evening. The judgement is expected before Chief Justice Gogoi retires on November 17.

“For clarity and adherence, it is emphasised that programmes/telecast should not speculate on issues relating to the Ayodhya judgement or its repercussions,” the self-regulating body for television news channels said in its two-page advisory. No celebratory or protest visuals related to Ayodhya must be shown, it added.

On Wednesday morning, there were several reports that the Sunni Waqf Board, one of the main Muslim petitioners, may withdraw from the case, through the mediators. The board was seeking the control of the site so that the demolished Babri Masjid can be reconstructed. While the three-member mediation panel has filed a report in the Supreme Court, there is no clarity yet.

“No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any news item relating to the Ayodhya matter,” the advisory said, adding that the reportage should not give “any impression of bias or prejudice in favour of, or against any community”.

Television debates must be careful to not telecast extremist views, it added. “Debates which are provocative and inflammatory and likely to create tension in the public should be avoided.”

The dispute is several decades old, with both Hindu and Muslim groups claiming their right to the land. The Babri Masjid stood there before it was demolished in 1992 by Hindutva activists.

In anticipation of the judgement, restrictive orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which bans the assembly of more than four people, were imposed in the temple town this week. They will be in place till December. The Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday cancelled the leaves of all field officers in the state’s 75 districts till November 30, hours after the Supreme Court reserved its judgement.

Scroll’s coverage of the Ayodhya dispute can be followed here and here.

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