According to Indian media sources, the high court in Delhi has summoned the BBC in a defamation case over a documentary on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that questioned his leadership during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Earlier this year, BBC released a two-part documentary series based on the current Prime Minster of India Narendra Modi, whose leadership was highly criticized and his brutal act against Muslims in Gujrat.
Although in January, the Indian government banned the series with the statement, “Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has issued directions for blocking multiple @YouTube videos of the first episode of @BBCWorld’s hateful propaganda “India: The Modi Question”.
India Issued Summons BBC Over Modi Documentary
It will be a public trust Justice on Trial, which has claimed that its two-part documentary “casts a slur on the reputation of the country and also makes false and defamatory imputations and insinuations against the Prime Minister of India”.
During a single bench of Justice Sachin Datta, while issuing notice to both the BBC India and the BBC, the UK’s national broadcaster, in its order noted, “The plaintiff contends that the defendant no. 2 (BBC) has released a two-episode news documentary titled India: The Modi Question.
The two episodes are stated to have been published in January 2023. It is contended that the said documentary/publication contains content which casts a slur on the reputation of the country and also makes false and defamatory imputations and insinuations against the Prime Minister of India, the Indian Judiciary, and the Indian criminal justice system”.
Datta further said that “Details thereof have been set out in paragraphs 11-26 of the plaint. It is averred that the aforesaid conduct of the respondents is actionable and has made them liable to damages, as claimed in the suit. Issue notice to the respondents through all permissible modes, returnable on 25.09.2023.”
Suit For Damages
The case moved the HC in a “suit for damages”, under Order 33 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) “seeking permission to file as an indigent person”.
As per the provisions of the CPC, if “he is not possessed of sufficient means (other than property exempt from attachment in execution of a decree and the subject matter of the suit) to enable him to pay the fee prescribed by law for the plaint in such suit, or where no such fee is prescribed.
If he is not entitled to property worth one thousand rupees other than the property exempt from attachment in execution of a decree, and the subject matter of the suit”.
Apology & Rs 10 Lakh
Last month, the Indian government had already issued summon to BBC, the Wikimedia Foundation, and the Internet Archive after BJP leader Binay Kumar Singh filed a defamation suit.
“The defendant is directed to file his written statement within 30 days from the date of service of the summons. Endorsement be made on the summons accordingly,” the order, passed by Additional District Judge of the Rohini court, Ruchika Singla, had said on May 4.
Not only that, but the issue also seeks a public apology and damages worth around Rs 10 lakh. The suit said the documentary has “generated an atmosphere of terror and fear among members of various groups, and possesses the potential to trigger violence and jeopardize public order across the nation…”
Up till now BBC’s higher authorities have not released any statement or taken action against the summon.
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