Freedom of speech most abused: SC while hearing Tablighi Jamaat pleas

Freedom of speech and expression is the most abused right during recent times, the Supreme Court said on Thursday while hearing a case related to media reporting on the Tablighi Jamaat incident.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde was hearing pleas filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind and others seeking action against the media, allegedly giving communal hatred over Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin during the onset of COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the petitioners said that the Centre, in its affidavit has stated that the Jamaat is ‘trying to muzzle’ freedom of speech by targeting the media.

Responding, the court said, “They are free to make any averment in their affidavit, like you are free to make any argument you want.”

The bench raised question over the fact that instead of secretary of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, a junior official filed the affidavit which contained “unnecessary” and “non-sensical” averments with regard to media reporting on the case.

“You cannot treat this court the way you are doing in this case,” the bench said.

The court has posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.

The Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Markaz in Delhi’s Nizamuddin had become the epicentre of COVID-19 in March. They were criticized for allowing a gathering of people from different parts of the country despite the lockdown guidelines by the Centre.