New Delhi, May 22, 2023 – The Delhi High Court has issued summons to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in response to a defamation suit filed by Gujarat-based NGO Justice for Trial, claiming that a BBC documentary cast a slur on the reputation of India, its judiciary, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The court has also issued notice to BBC (India), the local operational office, seeking its response on the matter.
The documentary in question, titled “India: The Modi Question,” consists of two episodes and was released by BBC (U.K.). Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the NGO, argued that the documentary had defamed India and its entire system, including the judiciary. Salve further claimed that the documentary made insinuations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The plea filed by Justice for Trial stated that the documentary contained defamatory content that cast a negative light on the country’s reputation. Responding to the allegations, the Delhi High Court issued notices to the respondents through all permissible modes and scheduled the next hearing for September 15.
This isn’t the first time the court has taken action on the matter. Previously, the Delhi High Court had issued summons to the BBC, the Wikimedia Foundation, and the U.S.-based digital library Internet Archive, following a defamation suit filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Binay Kumar Singh. Singh sought a permanent restraint order against the organizations from broadcasting the BBC series “India – The Modi Question.” In his complaint, Singh alleged that the series had defamed organizations such as the RSS, the VHP, and the BJP.
During the court proceedings, the legal representatives for BBC and Wikipedia informed Additional District Judge Ruchika Singla that they are foreign entities who have not been properly served and appeared under protest. They claimed not to have received copies of the suit.
This development highlights the growing concern over the content and portrayal of India in international media. It also emphasizes the significance of maintaining a balance between freedom of expression and protecting the reputation of the country and its leaders. The court’s decision to summon the BBC and BBC (India) signifies a step towards addressing these concerns and ensuring a fair resolution to the defamation suit.
The case will continue to be closely monitored as it moves forward, with its outcome potentially setting a precedent for similar cases in the future.