The Allahabad High Court has directed the Information and Broadcasting ministry to look into allegations that TV programmes relating to godman Nirmal Baba were spreading superstition and take action against the erring channels if the charges are found true.
A bench of justice A P Sahi and justice Sanjai Harkauli passed the order on a PIL moved in 2012 by a local lawyer K.Saran. The petitioner had sought action against the TV channels broadcasting the programmes of Nirmal Baba under the rule 6 of the Cable Television Network Rules 1994.
The petitioner had alleged that the programmes were encouraging superstition and blind faith. The petitioner had pleaded that the provisions of relevant law and Rules 1994 specifically provide that if such channels do not desist from showing contents with superstition and blind faith, the government may revoke the permission granted for running the channel.
In course of the hearing, the bench came across the counter affidavit of the I&B ministry filed by Assistant Solicitor General in May 2010. In its counter affidavit, the I&B ministry had said that it had referred a complaint against Nirmal Baba to the Secretary General of the News Broadcasters Association, the Broadcast Content Complaint Council and the Advertising Standards Council of India.
When the bench came to know that the ministry itself had made complaint against Nirmal Baba to the broadcaster’s bodies, it enquired as to what happened to the complaint. No material could be brought before the court as to what happened finally on the said complaint.
On the other hand, the petitioner argued that the broadcasters’ bodies were NGOs and were not proper authorities to deal with such a complaint and the only remedy lies in the Rules 1994. Under the circumstances, the bench referred to the provisions of the Rule 1994 and directed the I&B ministry to take action into the matter after hearing the concerned operators, channels and other parties.
In case the allegations are found true, the central ministry may act in the matter against the erring channels according to the provisions of Cable Television Network Rules 1994, taking back permission from the operators to run the channels. It also permitted the petitioner to serve copy of the order to the central government.