HC pulls up I&B Ministry over astrology-based TV shows

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today pulled up the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for failing to regulate astrology-based shows on television.

A division bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw, which was hearing a petition filed by NGO Sai Lok Kalyan Sanstha, asked the Ministry, "What is the procedurewhich you follow to look into complaints? These are not mere advertisements, these are programs. You are telling us about cable TV regulations, what about DTH?""We will pass appropriate orders," the bench said.

During the hearing, the ministry submitted that it had taken action against several advertisements which carried objectionable material and Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) is the designated body to look into complaints.

The ministry further said that while deliberating on complaints received in Advertising Standard Council ofIndia (ASCI), the designated body to look into the matters, it was observed that the advertisements made unsubstantiated claims and violated provisions of code for self-regulation.

It said that such ads also violated advertising code as per the Cable Television Network Rules 1994 which state that "No advertisement which violates the code of self-regulation in advertising, as adopted by ASCI, for public exhibition inIndia, from time to time, shall be carried in the cable service."

The high court had earlier sought programme code formonitoring the broadcasting by electronic media from the I&B Ministry. The plea filed by Ajay Gautam, president of the NGO, had alleged that "huge amount of money is changing hands and the physical and mental well being of citizen is at stake.

"The existing laws and regulation have proved totally inadequate to check all these superstitions. These programs also do not derive any validity from the established religiousinstitutions," it said.

The petition had also sought direction to stop the "illegal activities" of the television channels which are continuing their business in violation of various acts, rules, regulations and guidelines, issued by the ministry of information and broadcasting.

It had alleged that "in this process of making money, many channels have compromised with ethics, and are also acting in breach of rules and law particularly provisions of Drugs and Magic Remedy Act and rules framed under Cable Television Network Regulation Act framed by Information and Broadcasting Ministry".

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