Courting Controversy

Crisis and controversy marked Smriti Irani’s tenure as information and broadcasting minister

From the fake news directive to the row with Prasar Bharati, the minister attracted criticism on several occasions.

On Monday, Smriti Irani was removed as head of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and replaced by her junior minister Rajyavardhan Rathore. After the mini cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Irani is back to the relatively low-profile textiles ministry.

Irani was given additional charge of the I&B ministry in July last year when M Venkaiah Naidu resigned from the post after being made vice-president. In 2016, she had been given the textiles ministry after being removed from the Ministry of Human Resources and Development.

Irani’s tenure as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting was marked by controversy. A month after she took charge, Irani objected to the Press Trust of India releasing a photograph of men wearing masks of Modi and Janata Dal (United) Chief Nitish Kumar on the occasion of Friendship Day. This came shortly after Kumar, the Bihar Chief Minister, left the alliance of the JD(U), Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress in that state to tie up with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. The news agency told the minister that the men in the photographs were members of the two parties, but they apologised and withdrew the photographs from circulation.

In November last year, Irani’s ministry dropped Ravi Jadhav’s Nude and Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s S Durga from the Indian Panorama section of the 48th International Film Festival of India. This decision was allegedly made without the knowledge or consent of the jury that had selected the films. The move prompted several festival jury members, including its head, Sujoy Ghosh, to resign from the panel ahead of the festival. Irani did not explain her decision.

In December last year, the ministry issued an advisory asking television channels not to air advertisements promoting condoms between 6am and 10pm, holding them “indecent/inappropriate for viewing by children”. The order was widely criticised and the ministry later said that the ban was only on advertisements with “sexually explicit content”.

Irani was also criticised by Opposition leaders for staying silent during the controversy surrounding the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat. Staring early last year, right-wing groups such as the Rajput Karni Sena organised violent protests against the film’s release, claiming that it maligns the community with its representation of their legendary queen Padmavati. The protesting groups vandalised film sets and issued death threats against some members of the cast and crew.

Bhansali had to eventually change the film’s name from Padmavati to Padmaavat and release was delayed from December 1 to January 25. The run up to the movie’s release also saw violent protests and an unofficial ban on the film in several BJP-ruled states, despite being cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification, which is under the information and broadcasting ministry.

Prasar Bharati stand-off

In March, it was reported that Irani’s ministry had not released money to Prasar Bharati for January and February, forcing the public broadcaster to use contingency funds to pay salaries. According to a report in The Wire, Irani had blocked the funds after Prasar Bharati had pushed back against some of the ministry’s proposals. Chairperson Surya Prakash had refused to fill two key editorial posts with journalists recommended by the ministry, as the salaries suggested for them were too steep, and had also turned down a proposal to appoint a serving Indian Administrative Services officer as a full-time member on Prasar Bharati’s board.

The body had also turned down the ministry’s demand that Doordarshan pay a private company Rs 2.92 crore for covering IFFI. Doordarshan, which is the television broadcasting wing of Prasar Bharati, had reportedly claimed that the assignment need not have been outsourced as it had been covering the event all these years. Irani later clarified that the funds had been withheld because the autonomous body had not signed the required Memorandum of Understanding with the ministry. The money was released in April.

Irani was also left red-faced after Modi, in less than 15 hours, overturned her controversial fake news directive on April 3. The information and broadcasting ministry had issued new guidelines, ostensibly to curb the spread of misinformation, according to which a journalist accused of spreading fake news would lose their accreditation for 15 days till the matter was investigated by the Press Council of India and the News Broadcasters Association. If the allegation was confirmed, the accreditation of that journalist would be suspended for six months for the first violation, one year in case of a second violation and permanently after a third. The directive was roundly criticised amid apprehensions that it could be misused to silence journalists without really tackling the widespread problem of fake news.

Most recently, the ministry was caught in a controversy over the National Film Awards, after it was announced that President Ram Nath Kovind would present only 11 out of 140 trophies, with Irani presenting the rest. The move was a departure from the tradition of the president personally felicitating award winners in the presence of the information and broadcasting minister. As a mark of protest, about 70 award winners skipped the ceremony at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on May 3.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Get ready for an 80-hour shopping marathon

Here are some tips that’ll help you take the lead.

Starting 16th July at 4:00pm, Flipkart will be hosting its Big Shopping Days sale over 3 days (till 19th July). This mega online shopping event is just what a sale should be, promising not just the best discounts but also buying options such as no cost EMIs, buyback guarantee and product exchanges. A shopping festival this big, packed with deals that you can’t get yourself to refuse, can get overwhelming. So don’t worry, we’re here to tell you why Big Shopping Days is the only sale you need, with these helpful hints and highlights.

Samsung Galaxy On Nxt (64 GB)

A host of entertainment options, latest security features and a 13 MP rear camera that has mastered light come packed in sleek metal unibody. The sale offers an almost 40% discount on the price. Moreover, there is a buyback guarantee which is part of the deal.

Original price: Rs. 17,900

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Samsung 32 inches HD Ready LED TV

Another blockbuster deal in the sale catalogue is this audio and visual delight. Apart from a discount of 41%, the deal promises no-cost EMIs up to 12 months.

Original price: Rs. 28,890

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Intel Core I3 equipped laptops

These laptops will make a thoughtful college send-off gift or any gift for that matter. Since the festive season is around the corner, you might want to make use of this sale to bring your A-game to family festivities.

Original price: Rs. 25,590

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 21,900


If you’ve been planning a mid-year wardrobe refresh, Flipkart’s got you covered. The Big Shopping Days offer 50% to 80% discount on men’s clothing. You can pick from a host of top brands including Adidas and Wrangler.

With more sale hours, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days sale ensures we can spend more time perusing and purchasing these deals. Apart from the above-mentioned products, you can expect up to 80% discount across categories including mobiles, appliances, electronics, fashion, beauty, home and furniture.

Features like blockbuster deals that are refreshed every 8 hours along with a price crash, rush hour deals from 4-6 PM on the starting day and first-time product discounts makes this a shopping experience that will have you exclaiming “Sale ho to aisi! (warna na ho)”

Set your reminders and mark your calendar, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days starts 16th July, 4 PM and end on 19th July. To participate in 80 hours of shopping madness, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Flipkart and not by the Scroll editorial team.