On Thursday (September 3, 2020), the Gauhati High Court while hearing the petition filed by M/s AM Private Television Pvt. Ltd. set aside the order passed by Commissioner of Police, Gauhati to ban the telecast of Assamese TV serial ‘Begum Jaan’.
A single-judge bench of Justice Suman Shyam noted that the order to suspend the telecast of the serial was in violation of the principle of natural justice since the impugned order was passed without hearing the affected parties, moreover, without following the procedure as per the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1994. The Assamese serial is based on a theme of the Hindu-Muslim love relationship. On August 24, the Gauhati Police Commissioner issued an order suspending the telecast of the serial for a period of two months. The action was taken based on complaints by some groups claiming that the serial was against communal harmony.
The petitioner’s counsel, Advocate S Sharma, submitted that the police commissioner can pass the order only on the basis of the recommendations of a District Monitoring Committee. He further stated that as per the latest guidelines of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued in 2017, a representative from the electronic media should be included in the Monitoring Committee. However, it was contended that the Monitoring Committee did not have a representative from the media so to recommend such action by the Commissioner. The Government advocate while reserving its reply on the above argument by the petitioner’s counsel argued that the Commissioner has independent authority to pass such order and the fact that there was no representation of media in the Monitoring Committee have no consequence on the order. However, the Court rejected the contention submitted by the Government counsel and held that “The complaints were evidently addressed to the Chairman of the Monitoring Committee and therefore, a duly constituted monitoring committee was required to apply its mind on the merit of the complaints before making any recommendation in the matter which has apparently not been done in this case.”
The court also noted that no copies of the complaints (against which the impugned order was passed) were served to the petitioner and no opportunity of hearing was given to them. The bench subsequently set aside the Commissioner’s order. The Hon’ble court has asked the competent authority to decide the matter afresh giving an opportunity of hearing to both the parties. [READ ORDER]