A Delhi court has issued summons to BBC, Wikipedia, Internet Archive and others in response to a criminal complaint filed by a member of the Bhartiya Janta Party seeking to prevent them from publishing a documentary on the 2002 Gujrat riots or any other defamatory materials related to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
The complainant, Vinay Kumar Singh, claims that the BBC documentary — India: The Modi Question — has defamed the BJP, RSS, and VHP. Despite being banned by the government, the content is still available on the Internet Archive and a Wikipedia page dedicated to the documentary.
The complainant is seeking direction from the court to the BBC and other defendants to tender an unconditional apology to RSS and VHP for the libellous and defamatory content published in the two-volume documentary series.
Singh is also seeking a decree of damages of INR 10 lakh in this favour and against the defendants. He claimed that the allegations made against the RSS and VHP were motivated by malicious intent to defame the organisations and its millions of volunteers and members.
Singh further alleges that the release of the documentary has created an atmosphere of terror and fear among members of various groups and has the potential to trigger violence and jeopardize public order across the nation. The complaint also states that the accusations made in the documentary foster animosity between multiple faiths, particularly Hindus and Muslims.
The Delhi court has issued summons to the defendants and posted the matter for May 11. This development raises questions on the extent of freedom of speech and the right to information in India. This case could have a significant impact on the role of online platforms and the ability of the government to control access to information.
Only last week Indian government banned 14 apps on charges that these apps were used by Pakistani terrorists to communicate with their handlers in Pakistan. One question that arises out of all this mayhem is how will the state manage the rights of its citizens with national security and public order.
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