HC Judge Recuses From Hearing Activist’s Plea for Apology From News Channel, Journalist

A Delhi High Court judge Thursday recused from hearing a plea by activist Shehla Rashid seeking an unambiguous and unequivocal apology from a news channel and a TV journalist to mitigate the damage caused to her reputation by allegedly airing a one-sided defamatory broadcast in which charges were levelled against her by her estranged father.

Justice Prathiba M Singh said she cannot hear this matter and it be listed before another bench.

While the News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA) has filed its reply to the petition, Zee News sought time to place its stand.

On September 16, 2022, the high court had issued notices and sought responses of the News Broadcasters and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA), NDBA, Zee News and its erstwhile anchor Sudhir Chaudhary on the petition by Rashid, a former JNU students’ union leader.

Rashid approached the high court seeking modification in an order passed by NBDSA on March 31, 2022, on her complaint in which she had alleged that she was “vilified and slandered” solely on the basis of statements by her estranged father without taking or airing her version of the story.

In the order, NBDSA had directed the news channel to take down links to a show about Rashid and observed that the broadcast had caused prejudice towards her.

The petitioner said the authority refused to direct the broadcaster to air an apology, a relief that NBDSA has given in other similarly placed cases.

“Such unreasoned refusal is wholly arbitrary and unsustainable in law and this writ ought to issue to remedy the violation of public duty by the respondents,” the plea said.

It sought modification in the NBDSA’s order to the extent that the news channel and the journalist be directed to issue an unambiguous and unequivocal apology to the petitioner and to broadcast it during prime time to mitigate the “damage and prejudice” caused to her dignity and reputation.

Advocate S Prasanna, appearing for Rashid, had earlier said “in today’s situation when these kinds of allegations are made, it is important that there is a sense of responsibility of the media and people who make these allegations”.

The counsel for NBDSA had submitted that the broadcaster has removed all the links from all platforms regarding the programme which was aired on November 30, 2020.

The plea said the acts of the news channel and the journalist of airing the broadcast and following it up with alleged “additional biased and malicious coverage”, calls for an intervention by this court to provide relief to the petitioner whose reputation and image was “damaged” with impunity by the respondents in violation of her fundamental right to live with dignity.

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