SC notice to Centre over petition on BBC documentary

Wednesday 08th February 2023 06:12 EST

The Supreme Court has sought Center's response to two petitions that contested the government order asking social media platforms to remove the two-part series, as well as tweets and posts that contained links to 'India: The Modi Question', and ordered the government to produce the original records.

Dealing with two petitions – one filed jointly by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, journalist N Ram and advocate Prashant Bhushan, and the second one by advocate ML Sharma – a bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and MM Sundresh said, “The counter affidavit shall be filed within three weeks...The respondent will also produce the original record before the next date of hearing.” The court has posted the matter for hearing in April.

N Ram's senior attorney, CU Singh, asked the court for an earlier hearing date while pointing out that the Centre used emergency powers to remove tweets distributing the documentary. Tweets from Bhushan and Moitra were among them. According to the petition, this was a violation of the Constitution's Article 19(1)(a)-protected basic right to free speech and expression.

“All citizens including the press have the fundamental right to view, form an informed opinion, critique, report on, and lawfully circulate the contents of the documentary as right to freedom of speech and expression incorporates the right to receive and disseminate information,” the petition said.

Singh requested temporary orders requiring the Centre to make its order from January 20 public. He made the case that the laws require the Centre to issue such emergency instructions within 48 hours. Can we allow the interim prayer without hearing them, the bench asked. They now have our order. The record will be made by them.

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