HC orders TV channels, social media to block videos accusing a Muslim man of forcibly converting a woman

The woman has filed an FIR. The court ordered Google, Twitter, YouTube, the Press Council of India, Sudarshan TV, Odisha TV, Bharat Prakashan and others to block the videos for the man's safety.

Supreme Court (left); and representative image of nesting dolls suggestive of 'love jihad' (inner doll wears saree and bindi within cracked-open outer doll wearing a burkha and hijab) (NH file photo)
Supreme Court (left); and representative image of nesting dolls suggestive of 'love jihad' (inner doll wears saree and bindi within cracked-open outer doll wearing a burkha and hijab) (NH file photo)

NH Web Desk

The Delhi High Court on Friday directed certain news channels, including Sudarshan TV, and social media platforms such as YouTube, Google and Twitter, to block links of news reports accusing a Muslim man of forcefully converting a woman to Islam.

The court's order comes amid a row over 'The Kerala Story'—a movie supposedly inspired by a 'true story' and featuring four Kerala women who converted to Islam and travelled with their husbands to Afghanistan to join IS.

Justice Prathiba M Singh passed the order after considering that there was a severe threat to the accused man's safety, which was evident from the comments made by viewers on the news reports and videos available online.

The high court issued notice to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), Press Council of India (PCI), News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) and Google LLC, Twitter Inc.

The order also named Sudarshan News chairman Suresh Chavhanke, Odisha Television Limited, Pittie Media LLP and Bharat Prakashan (Delhi) Limited (which own The Organiser, Voice of the Nation).

Justice Singh was responding to a plea by one Azmat Ali Khan, seeking removal of news content and clips aired on online platforms after a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against him on April 19.

A Delhi-based woman accusing him of forced religious conversion had lodged an FIR. A rape case was also lodged against him.

The high court asked all notified parties to respond to the petition filed by Khan, who claims to be a teacher of classical music and to have been in a relationship with his accuser for the last eight years.

Khan, in his petition, has submitted that the reports are in the form of fake news and threats, and are severely jeopardising his life, reputation and safety.

According to Khan's argument, the Delhi Police are now looking into the allegations made against him and the public release of the recordings poses a serious threat to their independent probe as well.

Advocate Mamta Jha, presenting Google, asserted that the originators of the videos should be heard because the FIR has already been filed.

Advocate Nisha Bhambhani, representing the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority, submitted that none of the respondent news channels were members of the News Broadcasters and Digital Association and were thus out of its jurisdiction.

Advocate T. Singhdev, representing the PCI, told the court that the PCI has jurisdiction only over the print media.

The court made it clear that its direction for blocking the links applied to all the respondents, including the channels and social media platforms.

The Delhi Police was also issued a notice, directing them to place on record a status report on the probe in the matter and to contact the complainant and inform her about the pendency of the petition.

"Considering that there is [a] severe threat as is evident from the comments placed before the court, it is directed that the links set out in the petition shall be immediately blocked for public viewing," the court said.

The movie The Kerala Story has triggered bans in India to avoid any incident of hatred and violence. Its makers say the film is based on years of research, but some critics have called it propaganda.

Khan's petition is listed it for further hearing on May 24.

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