The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on Thursday declined to pass any orders directing ‘prior restraint’ on media content of a broadcaster on a PIL filed by a NGO Common Cause.
Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, appearing for the NGO pleaded that the business of self-regulation has not worked for media and that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, as content regulator, has failed in protecting the interests and basic rights of the audience.
The Bench led by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar stated that pre-broadcast or pre-publication censorship is not the business of the court and that all grievances against objectionable content after its publication will be dealt with in accordance with the law. The Bench emphasised upon the freedom of speech and expression of the media as guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and inter alia, stated that the Court cannot direct the Centre to monitor the content of channels. The Bench further stated that in case of broadcast of an objectionable content, the court or the authority could be approached for redressal.
However, the Bench noted that the government is required to frame the statutory mechanism for redressal of complaints against contents of private TV channels and radio stations. It said that rules under Section 22 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act should be be framed so that a definite regime is in place with regard to the time limit for filing and deciding complaints and filing of appeals by the aggrieved parties, among other things.