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Lawyers’ body demands immediate rescinding of order banning 30 religious, other channels in Kashmir

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Srinagar: Kashmir High Court Bar Association on Thursday demanded immediate rescinding of an order by government, banning of 30 Islamic and other television channels in Kashmir.
Strongly condemning the banning of 30 channels which are beamed from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan and have a large following among the people of Kashmir, the lawyers body described the government’s order “blatant violation of the freedom of choice to watch and/or not to watch a particular television channel or a programme transmitted by it and also to curb the freedom of speech and expression.”
“The Bar Association maintains that a District Magistrate, in terms of Section 19 of the Cable Television Network (Registration) Act, 1995, has the power to prohibit any cable operator from transmitting or re-transmitting any programme or channel, if it is necessary or expedient in public interest to do so but such an order can be passed by him, only if the programme is not in conformity with the prescribed “Programme Code” or “Advertisement Code”. Rule 6 of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, describes only those programmes against “Programme Code”, which offend against good taste or decency; contain criticism of friendly countries; contain attack on religious groups or promote communal attitude; contain anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half-truths or is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order, or anything amounting to contempt of court, or to denigrate women or children or injure public morality or contain visuals of words, which reflect as slandering, ironical or snobbish attitude in the portrayal of certain ethnic, linguistic and regional groups, which none of the channels banned by District Magistrate, Srinagar, have been accused of by the District Magistrate.”
The channels which have been banned by the District Magistrate, it said, are mostly transmitting or re-transmitting the programmes based on philosophy of Islam. “From Saudi channels, there are recitation from Holy Quran during day as well as night. The other channels are spreading the peaceful message of Islam, which by and large are liked by all the people, who are watching these programmes, which also include those people, who belong to other faiths.”
As these channels do not offend the “Programme Code” or the “Advertisement Code”, the lawyers body said that District Magistrate had no jurisdiction to pass the ban order. “The order has neither been issued in the interests of public nor for their good but is against the interests of whose, who have been watching these channels and programmes transmitted by these channels for the last so many years.”
The programmes transmitted by these channels, it said, being not inimical to any linguistic or religious group, the District Magistrate should have refrained from issuing any ban order against these channels and “if there was any deficiency with regard to the registration of the channel or the programme, he should have asked those cable operators to remove the said deficiency within some period of time instead of imposing complete ban on the transmitting of the programmes by those channels.”
The order, the lawyers body said, not only infringes the right of people to watch the programme of their choice and liking but also offends the fundamental rights of carrying on trade and/or business by the cable operators, who are registered as such and are earning their livelihood therefrom.
“The Bar Association demands that the ban order should be rescinded forthwith, so that there is free flow of information with regard to the message of Islam and people are also able to understand the doctrine and philosophy of their religion without any impediment or obstruction and the cable operators are also in a position to earn their livelihood without being subjected to such a harsh treatment.”

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