The Supreme Court today said it will not pass any order that would lead to a “gag” on the media, after a Muslim organisation sought to stop sections of the media from allegedly giving a communal colour to reportage on COVID-19 cases linked to an event held by an Islamic sect in Delhi’s Nizamuddin.
“If it’s a question of killing or dying, your remedy is somewhere else. But if it’s a question of larger reporting then the Press Council of India has to be made a party… I think you add the Press Council as a party to your case,” Chief Justice of India SA Bobde told the petitioner Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind.
“We will not gag the press,” said the Supreme Court bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and MM Shantanagoudar.
The lawyer for the Muslim organisation told the top court that the media and the government have been “constantly talking about Tablighi spreading coronavirus”. “They’re publishing the names and addresses of coronavirus patients. That’s against the law,” the lawyer said.
Replying to the lawyer, the court said, “We want to make solid long-term measures about the news items. Once we take cognisance, people will understand. So we will not pass any interim orders. We will hear the case later.”
Reports had said over 25,500 have been taken into quarantine and over a thousand positive cases were linked to the event organised by the Tablighi Jamaat.
At least 9,000 people participated in the gathering at the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters in Nizamuddin. Many had also come from abroad.
The petition said the top court must intervene and stop sections of the media from using the Tablighi Jamaat to demonise and blame all Muslims for spike in COVID-19 cases in India.
“It is submitted that such reporting has triggered communal antagonism and has also perpetrated hatred, resulting in fissiparous tendencies gaining foothold, undermining and affecting communal harmony,” the plea said.