At the very outset, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Jain, submitted that the matter may be adjourned because Justice A.S. Bopanna, who presides over the special bench, is not sitting owing to illness.
The Supreme Court, on Monday, agreed to hear on February 6 a PIL challenging the Centre’s decision to ban a BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots in the wake of February 27, 2002, burning of S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express at Godhra railway station in which 59 Kar Sevaka coming from Ayodhya killed.
A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud , Justice P S Narasimha and Justice JUB Pardiwala, on a mentioning by a PIL petitioner advocate M L Sharma seeking an early listing, said that they will list the matter for hearing on next Monday – February 6.
The PIL has contended that the ban on the documentary taking recourse to rule 16 of Information Technology Rule 2021, is “illegal, mala fide, arbitrary and unconstitutional”.
Senior advocate C U Singh also mentioned before the bench how tweets by senior journalist N Ram and advocate Prashant Bhushan with links of the BBC documentary were deleted using “emergency powers” and how students from Ajmer were suspended for streaming the documentary.
The PIL by advocate Sharma has urged the apex court to call for and examine the BBC documentary – both parts I and II – and sought action against persons who were responsible and were involved directly and indirectly with the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Raising the constitutional question, PIL has urged the apex court to decide whether citizens have the right under Article 19 (1) (2) to see news, facts and reports on the 2002 Gujarat riots, Sharma said.
“Issue writ of mandamus to the Respondent for quashing of the impugned order dated January 21, 2023 issued under rule 16 of IT rule 2021 being illegal, malafide and arbitrary unconstitutional and void ab-initio and ultra vires to the Constitution of India to provide complete justice,” the PIL stated.
Whether the Central government can curtail freedom of press which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (2) of the Constitution, PIL has asked in its plea.
It added, “Whether without having an Emergency declared under Article 352 of the Constitution of India by the president, Emergency provisions can be invoked by the central government?”