Chennai : The Madras high court has declined to order pre-censorship of materials telecast on private television networks, saying it was not possible in this era of information explosion and technological development.
Making it clear that courts could not legislate on such issues, the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M M Sundresh last week said: “In our view, there is no doubt that the contents of TV channels, at times, raise the issue of their undesirability. However, this is the information age and it is not possible to stop technology development. A possible solution lies only in monitoring or by way of switching off the channel, when it appears to be offensive.”
The bench was passing orders on a PIL jointly filed by G Alex Benziger, Pancras M Raja, A Arokiadoss and S Leonard Vasanth. They listed almost every top television channel in the country, and wanted the court to direct the Centre to regulate their content, and prohibit telecast of obscene programmes that glorify violence, show acts of sexual violence, have half-naked girls dancing and promote drinking and smoking.
Refusing to pass any such order, the bench said: “As to what is offensive and obscene is again a very subjective aspect. Whether it is elders or children, they have to be advised to exercise discretion. Once again, all these are matters pertaining to social issues and whether to have a legislation or not or what form of regulations is required, is best left to the government .”
In their response to the PIL, the ministry of information and broadcasting and Prasar Bharati said there was no pre-censorship of programmes telecast by private television channels, who are required to adhere to the provisions of programmes/advertising codes prescribed under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. An inter-ministerial committee has been set up to look into violation of these codes, they said, adding, “There are cases where action has been taken against TV channels as per rules. The code is under consideration for revision.”
There is an enforcement machinery not only with respect to films, but also with respect to TV channels and an Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) has been set up for purposes of monitoring the contents on television, they said. A Bill introduced to regulate the operation of broadcasting services lapsed, they said.
When similar PILs were filed before the Delhi high court, they were dismissed in September 2008 with an observation that the matter was of complex nature.