Aaj Tak, the Hindi news channel owned by TV Today Network, has moved the Delhi High Court seeking to quash the order passed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for violating the Programme Code in relation to actor Rakul Preet Singh‘s trail by media case, Bar and Bench reported.
Tracing back to September 2020, Singh, who has predominantly worked in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi films, had moved the High Court to restrain the “trial by media” that allegedly linked her to the ongoing drug probe following actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
Rajput died by suicide on June 14, 2020 in Mumbai, that sparked several controversies regarding mental health issues and nepotism in the Hindi film industry. It also resulted in a massive drug probe being investigated by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Soon after the arrest of actor Rhea Chakraborty in the drugs case, Singh was summoned by the NCB.
Singh had then stated in her plea that there was a “slander campaign” run by the media against her that had caused irreparable damage to her and her family, affected her commercial status interests, and invaded her right to privacy.
After this, the court had directed the ministry to file a status report in December 2020 on the video links produced by Singh on the offending broadcasts for which the ministry submitted reports but some additional links were yet to be examined.
The reports submitted by the ministry stated that according to the court’s order, it has forwarded the directions to the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and had asked for a report on the same after due examination.
After the actor had subsequently moved her complaint to the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) as well as the NBA, the NBSA had, in December, declared that the India Today Group, which Aaj Tak is a part of, did not violate their Code of Ethics.
According to the NBSA, the headline in question- Sushant ki Drug Party me Sara Ali Khan aur Rakul Preet! NCB ka Bada Khulasa (Sara Ali Khan and Rakul Preet in Sushant’s Drug Party, NCB’s big revelation), did not have any connection with the news and was published without context.
However, the NBSA had directed Aaj Tak to remove two other news headlines including- NCB ke Sawalo me phansi Rakul Preet, Drug Mamle me kiya bada khulasa (Rakul Preet trapped in NCB’s questions, big revealation in drug probe), as it held that it was violative of the self-regulation guidelines.
Stating that the NBSA has let the channel go “scot-free”, Singh submitted a representation to the I&B Ministry while seeking an independent review of the NBSA’s decision.
During a March hearing, the court had directed the I&B Ministry to take action against respective liable channels for violating the Programme Code in the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. The court had also mentioned that it issued an advisory to all private satellite television channels to adhere to the Programme Code.
In its reply, Aaj Tak has stated that the allegations are “vague and without foundation” and that a show-cause notice has to be issued in case an action is taken against them.
The channel management alleged that in complete disregard of their response, the Ministry passed an order declaring that it has violated Section 6(1)(i) (prohibiting any broadcast that criticises, maligns or slanders any individual in person or certain groups, segments of social, public and moral life of the country) of the Programme Code.
The NBSA had passed 10 orders following Singh’s complaint taking actions against 13 media organisations including OTV, ETV Andhra Pradesh, CNN News 18, ABP News, Zee News, Zee 24 Taas, Zee Hindustan, India Today, Aaj Tak, News Nation, India TV, Times Now, and Asianet News TV, as per a report by NBA.