[BREAKING] Supreme Court refuses to stay Centre's prohibition order on BBC Documentary on PM Modi

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N Ram, Mahua Moitra and Prashant Bhushan and ML Sharma had moved Supreme Court challenging the prohibition on the documentary effectuated on January 23, which the Centre claimed is "biased and agenda driven"

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the Centre's prohibition order on British Broadcasting Company's (BBC) documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Centre had stated that the documentary is agenda driven and is based on conjectures, perpetuating a colonial mindset.

A bench of Justices MM Sundaresh and Sanjiv Khanna told Senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for the plea's filed by N. Ram, Mahua Moitra and Prashant Bhushan that they cannot pass interim orders without a hearing.

When Singh told court that a stay is necessary, the court informed him that it is a fact that the film is already being accessed. "You have filed a link to it!," said Justice Sundaresh. 

The bench went on to issue notice on the petition(s), including on the plea by serial PIL-er ML Sharma and said that the plea's will be put up for hearing in April, after counter by the respondents have come in. It has sought the original record on the decision to be placed on record by centre.

On the last date, Senior Advocate CU Singh had informed the CJI that tweets on the documentary have been blocked & students have been suspended from campus for posting about the same.

Notably, the plea filed by Advocate ML Sharma seeks ex parte quashing of the Government's order dated January 21, 2023 issued under Rule 16 of IT Rules 2021, directing Youtube and Twitter to remove links posting the BBC documentary about the 2002 Gujarat Communal violence as being illegal, malafide, arbitrary, unconstitutional and void ab-initio & ultra vires to the Constitution of India.

Sharma had argued that the BBC documentary has reflected rue facts with original recording of the victims of 2002 riots as well as other concerned persons involved in the scenario of riot which can be used for judicial justice, however as it has been banned by the government, that is a violation of freedom of speech and expression.

A further prayer has been made before the Top Court to examine the BBC documentary's legal value to prosecute involved accused persons in the interest of justice.

Several protests have also taken place at different Universities in New Delhi, Calcutta, Kerala, Odisha, Maharashtra and other parts seeking screening of the BBC documentary, the petition adds.

After the documentary was released, it was also criticised in a joint statement by more than 300 former judges, bureaucrats and prominent figures who accused the BBC of pushing a British imperialist agenda and “setting itself up as both judge and jury to resurrect Hindu-Muslim tensions”.

Case Title: N. Ram Vs Union of India | ML Sharma vs. Union of India
Statute: IT Rules 2021, Constitution of India