A division bench led by the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court
, along with Chief Justice DN Patel
and Justice Jasmeet Singh
on Friday ( February 26, 2021) said that it will not hear the petitions seeking action against 'Aaj Tak' news channel
over alleged misreporting of the tractor rally,
and that the case will be assigned to another bench.
“Not before this bench,” this was said as soon as the two writ petitions filed by former MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Manjit Singh GK weretaken. The petitions alleged that the 'Aaj Tak' channel ran a campaign against the entire Sikh community by wrongly reporting the tractor parade held in the national capital on the Republic Day as part of the farmers protests.
On February 1, 2021, the High Court had issued notice to Aaj Tak, Press Council and the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on the petitions.
The plea alleged that ‘vicious, unmitigated, abhorrent, concocted and reprehensible actions’ by certain media houses (i.e. Aaj Tak), “have unleashed an offensive and potentially fatal communal attack on the "Sikh" community by continuous circulation and constant transmission of unverified videos through different platforms including their respective news channels, YouTube, and other such digital and online platforms, pursuant to the events that unfolded New Delhi on the 72nd Republic Day of India on 26.02.2021.”
According to the petitioners, the protestors including the farmer union leaders have been taking due care and caution to ensure that no convenience is caused to the public at large while continuing the protest. However, on the fateful day of 26th January 2021, “due to the infiltration of the protests by certain anti social and ill motivated elements,
” the tractor rally was met by severe and brutal assaults by police authorities which created an opportunity for these anti social elements to create ruckus. The plea submitted that subsequent to such events, AAJ TAK on 27th January 2021 showcased a video wherein its correspondent Mr. Arvind Ojha
had unequivocally alleged that the protestors were involved in vilification and destruction of the "tableaus" of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand which were featured at Rajpath earlier in the day during the 72nd Republic Day celebrations. The petition further stated:
“The tirade launched through the circulation such malicious and vindictive videos is meant to outrage the dignity, modesty and goodwill of the "Sikh" community and to incite public sentiments against the people belonging the "Sikh" community. The Petitioner submits that they legitimately apprehend that such deliberate provocation of the general public at large could result in disastrous consequences for the "Sikh" community who have served as the beacon of hope for this nation at its most dire times.” The petitioners sought:
- Direction to restrain 'Aaj Tak' from broadcasting content "vilifying a particular community and inciting hatred against them"
- Framing of guidelines to curb fake news, hate speech in media.
The Chief Justice said that the cases will be considered by another bench on Tuesday or Wednesday.