Delhi HC Judge Recuses from Hearing Plea Against BBC Documentary

A Delhi High Court judge, Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani, recused himself on Friday from hearing a plea filed by an NGO seeking damages from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The plea claims that BBC’s documentary, “India: The Modi Question,” tarnishes India’s reputation and contains false and defamatory statements against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian judiciary.

Justice Bhambhani did not provide a reason for his recusal. The court ordered that the petition be listed before another bench for a hearing on May 22, subject to the Acting Chief Justice’s directives.

The Gujarat-based NGO, Justice On Trial, filed the plea against BBC, demanding ₹10,000 crore in damages. The documentary, which aired in January 2023, focuses on the 2002 Gujarat riots when Modi was the state’s Chief Minister. The NGO argues that the documentary damages the reputations of the Prime Minister, the Government of India, the Government of Gujarat, and the people of India.

The NGO, registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, and the Bombay Public Trust Act, 1950, has also filed an Indigent Person Application. This application enables individuals or organizations without sufficient financial means to file lawsuits. The plea cites that the documentary contains defamatory content that severely injures the reputations and goodwill of the involved parties.

The Centre had previously blocked multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing the documentary, labeling it as a “propaganda piece” that lacks objectivity and perpetuates a colonial mindset. The Ministry of External Affairs criticized the documentary for its perceived bias.

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The Delhi High Court had earlier issued notices to the BBC regarding the NGO’s plea. The petition will now be reassigned and heard by a different bench, potentially paving the way for further legal scrutiny of the documentary’s content and the substantial damages sought by the petitioner.

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