Documentary Row: Delhi Court Summons BBC, Others on Defamation Complaint

A Delhi court on Wednesday issued summonses to the BBC, Wikimedia and Internet Archive on a criminal complaint filed by a BJP leader seeking to restrain them from publishing a documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots, or any other material defamatory to the RSS and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).

The complainant had said the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question” has defamed organisations like the BJP, RSS and VHP.

The court was told that though the documentary has been banned by the government, a Wikipedia page dedicated to the series provides links to watch it and that the content is still available on Internet Archive.

Wikimedia Foundation funds Wikipedia while Internet Archive is a US-based digital library.

“Issue summons of the suit for settlement of issues to the defendant (BBC, Wikimedia and Internet Archive),” Additional District Judge (ADJ) Ruchika Singla said, posting the matter for May 11.

Complainant Vinay Kumar Singh said he is a state executive committee member of the Jharkhand BJP and an active volunteer of the RSS and VHP. He claimed the BBC documentary defamed organisations like the RSS, VHP and the BJP.

The complainant sought a direction to the BBC and other respondents “to tender an unconditional apology” to him and the RSS and VHP “for the libellous and defamatory content published in the two volume documentary series.

“Pass a decree of damages of Rs 10 lakh in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendants,” it further urged the court.

It claimed that the allegations made against the RSS and VHP were motivated by a “malicious intent to defame the organisations and its millions of members/ volunteers”.

“Such unfounded allegations are not only baseless but also have the potential to damage the reputation and image of the RSS, VHP and its millions of members/ volunteers, who have committed themselves to upholding the cultural, social and national values of India,” it said.

The complaint stated the release of the documentary has generated an atmosphere of terror and fear among members of various groups, and possesses the potential to trigger violence and jeopardize public order across the nation yet again.

It alleged that the BBC “strategically and purposefully disseminated unfounded rumours without verifying the authenticity of the claims”.

Furthermore, the accusations made therein foster animosity between multiple faith communities, in particular Hindus and Muslims, it claimed.

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