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BBC Documentary Row: SC Issues Notice To Centre, No Interim Relief For Now

The court was hearing petitions challenging the Centre's move to block public access to "India: The Modi Question."

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The Supreme Court on Friday, 3 February, issued notice to the government on petitions challenging its decision to block public access to BBC's documentary titled "India: The Modi Question."

A bench of  Justices Sanjiv Khanna and MM Sundresh directed the Union government to produce the original records relating to the order on the next date of hearing, which will be in April 2023.

No interim relief (for now): The Court declined to pass any interim order without hearing the government and directed it to produce all records on the next hearing date.

"Can we allow the interim prayer without hearing them? We direct respondents to produce original records in next date of hearing," the Court said.

The documentary & the ban: The documentary delves into the 2002 riots in Gujarat and raises concerns on the alleged role of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time.

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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had, on 21 January, issued directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos of the first episode of BBC's documentary 'India: The Modi Question'. Tweets by users on the documentary were also blocked.

What the petitioners had demanded: The bench was considering one petition jointly filed by journalist N Ram, Advocate Prashant Bhushan and TMC MP Mahua Moitra and another petition filed by Advocate ML Sharma.

Sharma in his petition had contented that the ban was arbitrary and unconstitutional. He had also asked for an investigation into those responsible for failing to stop the riots.

Meanwhile, the petition by Bhushan, Moitra and N Ram documentary, said that the documentary as well as tweets on it are guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

They contended that the government has not officially placed any document, order, or any other information in the public domain to explain the need for exercising emergency powers under Rule 16 of the Information Technology (IT) Act.

(With inputs from LiveLaw and Bar and Bench)

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