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Days after the Assam police ordered the ban on the airing of a contentious TV serial ‘Begum Jaan’ for a period of two months, the Gauhati High Court has reportedly set aside the directive by the city Police Commissioner.
In its order, the Assam police had informed that the ban was imposed under the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995 for outraging the ‘religious sentiments’ of a particular section of the society. The police intervention came after one Gunajit Adhikary and Hindu groups such as All Assam Brahmin Youth Council, United Trust of Assam and Hindu Jagran Manch filed complaints against the Assamese TV show alleging that it promoted ‘love jihad’.
Procedure not followed while imposing the two-month ban
Following the ban on the TV serial, the channel moved the Guwahati High court seeking quashing of the order. The channel argued that the latest guidelines of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting were not implemented in passing the order. In their defence, the petitioners highlighted how the district-level monitoring committee, which recommended the ban, did not have any representative from the channel. Besides, the channel highlighted that while the Central government can pass such orders, the monitoring committee is a statutory body capable of making ‘suitable recommendation’ after hearing both sides.
The counsel appearing for the channel argued that the authorities did not send complaint copies to the channel before imposing a ban on the airing of Begum Jaan. Taking cognisance of the petitioners’ arguments, Justice Suman Shyam on the Guwahati High set aside the order. He noted that the committee’s decision violated the Cable Tv Networks (Regulation) Act, 1994, and it did not accommodate the views of the channel owners.
Begum Jaan can be retelecast after deletion of objectionable content, rules Court
The Court further directed the channel owners to go ahead with the telecast of the show, after they remove the ‘objectionable content’. The order said that When the managing director of the channel “reaches his personal satisfaction to the effect that any content of the serial which is deemed to be universally objectionable on the ground of violation of communal harmony or which may contain anything that may harm the religious sentiment of any community, is deleted… Subject to observation of the above condition, it would be open for the petitioners to telecast the TV serial ‘Begum Jaan’ in accordance with law”.
Derogatory portrayal of Hindu society, argues civil society and Hindu organisations
The civil society at large and Hindu rights organisations have come forward to express their displeasure regarding the content of the show aired on Rengoni TV, an Assamese general entertainment channel. In a letter addressed to the Tezpur Sadar Thana, a concerned citizen had complained about the alleged derogatory portrayal of Assamese culture and the Hindu religion in ‘Begum Jaan’.
The letter pointed out that the show has tried to legitimise and transmit the ‘epidemic’ of love jihad. “I suspect that the makers of the TV show had received funds to create social unrest. As a citizen, I want the show to be banned and an investigation to be initiated against the director, producer, and writer of the show,” the letter had emphasised.
According to the state chief of Hindu Jagran Manch, Mrinal Kumar Lashkar, the show did not depict the Assamese culture and the Hindu society in the right manner. “It belittles the Brahmins, in the Assamese society already love jihad is there and this serial can trigger it more,” he was quoted as saying.