The Delhi High Court on Tuesday stayed the Centre's decision to stop entertainment channel Comedy Central's transmission for ten days for airing "obscene" dialogues and "vulgar" words besides being derogatory to women.
Granting a stay on its single judge's May 24 order, upholding the government's decision banning transmission of the channel from May 25 to June 4, the bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice Jayant Nath said,"The order directing prohibition of the transmission and re-transmission of the channel is stayed till further orders."
The court also sought Centre's reply by August 2 on the appeal filed by Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd against the single judge's order.
The division bench passed the order after recording the statement of company's Vice President that the programme 'Stand Up Club' and 'Popcorn' have been suspended and he also furnished an undertaking not to telecast the same in future.
In its appeal, the company said, "Prohibition of transmission will cause irreparable loss and damage to the appellant. It will also put an end to the popularity and the viability, commercially or otherwise, of the channel." The channel also claimed that "transmission is its fundamental right" and said, "The right to operate and broadcast television channel is protected under Article 19 of the Constitution. In this view of the matter, the appellants submit that they are entitled to fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution."
"The manner in which respondent (Centre) has interpreted the policies and imposed penalty in complete violation of the fundamental rights of the appellant is not only anachronistic to the constitutional value of liberal democracy but also inconsistent with prevailing practices worldwide," the appeal also said.
Accepting the recommendation of Inter Ministerial Council (IMC), the I&B Ministry on May 17 had asked Comedy Central to go off air for 10 days for telecasting "offensive" words in the programmes on May 26 and July 4 last year.
The Ministry had prohibited channel's transmission or retransmission on any platform throughout India with effect from 00:01 hours on May 25 till 00:01 hours on June 4.
Dismissing a plea of the company, the single judge bench of the High Court had said the penalty prohibiting the telecast of the channel for ten days cannot be termed as "excessive, harsh or unreasonable."
It had rejected the channel's argument that the decision is discriminatory as the government had not consulted the Broadcasting Consumers Complaint Committee (BCCC) before imposition of the penalty.