HC refuses to immediately lift ban on BBC documentary

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday declined to immediately revoke the ban on the telecast of controversial BBC documentary "India's Daughter" on the December 16, 2012, gang rape.

A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva posted the two public interest litigations (PILs) for revocation of the ban on the documentary's telecast for March 18 before the bench headed by Chief Justice G. Rohini.

The bench refused to pass any interim order in the case, saying let the case come before the roaster bench of the Delhi High Court chief justice.

During the hearing, the bench said it has "no problem" about airing the documentary but the case (appeals of convicts against death sentence) is pending before the Supreme Court.

"Prima facie, we are not opposed to airing the documentary, but the matter is pending in the Supreme Court. Let the Supreme Court decide the matter first," bench remarked.

In its order, the bench posted the pleas for March 18. It said: "Show us how this documentary would not be interfering with judicial system. We are not roaster bench. Let the matter come before chief justice, we are not giving any interim order."

The documentary is about the gang rape of a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist, who was brutally assaulted on December 16, 2012, in a moving bus in Delhi. It kicked up a storm after one of the convicts Mukesh Singh was interviewed in Delhi's Tihar Jail.

The documentary also has comments from the convicts' counsel A.P. Singh and M.L. Sharma, who allegedly made derogatory remarks against women. The documentary caused an uproar among a section of people in India after the government banned its telecast in all formats.

During the hearing, the government opposed the pleas saying the "documentary not suitable for unrestricted public view".

In the documentary, derogatory comments about the victim and women were made, government counsel added.

The PILs said the ban on the documentary was in clear violation of fundamental rights under Article 19 of the Constitution. They sought direction to declare as illegal the act of banning the documentary by the home ministry, the ministry of information and broadcasting, and the Delhi Police commissioner.

The trial court had on March 4 banned until further orders the broadcast of the documentary. The pleas also sought direction for the Supreme Court registry to constitute a three-judge special bench to hear the appeals of the four death row convicts, pending since August 25, 2014.

The Supreme Court in July put on hold the execution of the four convicts in the case.

As per social media, the public at large wanted to see the documentary, as within a day of it being put up on YouTube, it was viewed by more 2.86 lakh people, the pleas said.

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