Sudarshan News has told the Supreme Court that its controversial show on the “infiltration of Muslims” in the civil services involves investigative journalism, which is meant to inform the citizens and the government about “anti-national” activities, Live Law reported on Friday.
The channel’s Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke submitted a 91-page affidavit after the Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the programme, Bindaas Bol, till further orders.
During Tuesday’s hearing, a three-judge bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud had observed that the programme was “insidious” and its intent was to vilify the Muslim community. The court added that Chavhanke was doing a “disservice to the nation” and is forgetting that India is a “melting point of diverse cultures and values”.
However, in Thursday’s Chavhanke, who used the phrase “UPSC jihad”, argued that he has no ill-will against any community or individual. He claimed that there was no such statement or message that members of a particular community should not join civil services during the telecast of four episodes of the programme.
“It is not that all contributors to the Zakat Foundation are terror-linked,” his affidavit said. “However, some of the contributors are linked to organisations or are organisations that fund extremist groups. The funds received by the Zakat Foundation, in turn, are used to support aspirants for IAS, IPS or UPSC...I am doing investigative journalism. I feel it is my duty to awaken the citizens and the government about anti-national and anti-social activities and the modus operandi.”
The affidavit, filed through advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, said the thrust of the programme is to investigate the funding controversy. “It is also a matter of national security,” it said. “Consistent with the national security requirements of our country, there ought to be a public debate and discussion on the source of such funding. When it comes to light through various sources that funds contributed by tainted organisations are being used to facilitate people joining UPSC, there is a serious issue requiring public debate, discussion and scrutiny.”
Sudarshan News said Syed Zafar Mahmood, the founder of Zakat Foundation of India, had also agreed to participate in a debate and give his response, but the police did not allow the channel crew to stand near his residence. “In all the three episodes i.e. 12/13/14.09.2020 a chair was kept vacant for Syed Zafar Mahmood or a representative’s participation in the debate,” the affidavit said.
Chavhanke claimed questioning a community which is simultaneously availing the benefits of religious minority and Other Backward Class scheme cannot be termed as communal. He added that the intervenors projected a wrong impression by stating that the show had said that Muslims had a different upper-age limit.
The editor-in-chief argued that the programme should not be judged merely on the basis of some slides and all the ten episodes must be seen to understand the perspective of the channel. “I state that I am running the news channel for the last 15 years,” he said. “During this period, the channel has faithfully observed the programme code.”
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, who had represented the channel, had also told the Supreme Court that the programme was an investigative story done keeping in mind public interest and national security. He had argued that the channel did not violate the Programme Code and showing select visuals in court was not fair.
“The edifice of a stable democratic society and observance of constitutional rights and duties is based on the co-existence of communities... India is a melting pot of civilisations, cultures and values... Any attempt to vilify a community must be viewed with disfavour,” the Supreme Court said in its order.