Justice Katju appeals to the media to exercise restraint, avoid fanning communal hatred

Justice Markandey KatjuThe following Press Note from Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman, Press Council of India, dated 6.3.2013, sent for publication to this blog, is also relevant to other countries, including Pakistan:

Re: False implication of Muslims in cases of Bomb Blasts, etc.

I have today received the following letter of Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, Chairman, National Commission for Minorities, New Delhi:

“D.O. No. M/AP/302/19/2013

March 01, 2013

Dear Mr. Justice Katju,

The terrorist blast in Dilsukh Nagar, Hyderabad on the evening on February 21, 2013 resulting in the death of innocent citizens and injury to many more has given rise to much discussion in the press and the media.  However, the National Commission for Minorities has noted with concern that even before completion of investigation and on the basis of what appears unfounded conjecture the media appears to have targeted a particular community, which seems unfortunately, also to be reciprocated in the statements of some who are in positions of authority.  Sh. B. Raman of the Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai has stated in an article in the Magazine Outlook recently that it seems to have become the trend that ïf there is terror, it has to be a Muslim.  If he is a Muslim, he has to be from the IM (Indian Mujahideen).  If it is the IM, it must have acted at the instance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).  That seems to be the thinking reflex of the police and the agencies.

You will agree that such a trend needs to be discouraged.  Fortunately, we have had some voices, even though scattered, raised in the media against such practice.  The Commission is therefore, approaching you to consider advising those in the media responsible for supervising release of news that they exercise restraint in reporting matters of this nature, which in the present case have brought much grief to a large section of Indian citizens, expressed in the article by Inscribe, a copy of which is attached”.

In this connection my view is as follows:

Bomb blasts and other terrorist activities often occur in our country.  The particular persons who have committed such heinous crimes should correctly be identified, prosecuted and when found guilty, given harsh punishment.  However, in my opinion often innocent Muslims are arrested and incarcerated in prison for several years in this connection.

To find out the real culprits requires scientific investigation.  Unfortunately, in most parts of our country, the police is neither trained in scientific investigations, nor has the equipment for this purpose.

In Western countries, as can be seen on Discovery Channel etc, when a crime takes place, the police reach the spot and look for finger prints, ashes, blood stains, fibres, etc. These are then sent to a laboratory. The finger prints are fed into a computer which is connected to a national network, and this often enables the police to find out the criminal antecedents of the suspects.  The blood stains etc. are tested in a laboratory using DNA and other tests.  Even minute fibres are investigated to find out the source of the clothes of the assailant.  It is only by this scientific investigation that a conclusion can be reached about the indentify of the culprit and the events that took place.  For example, in the well known Green River serial killer case, the serial killer, Gary Ridgway, was identified about 20 years after  his crimes by DNA tests of the semen found on the  exhumed bodies of the women whom he had killed.

However, in our country most police personnel neither have training in scientific investigation nor the equipment for this purpose, and yet they have to solve the crime, otherwise they may be suspended.

Since an impression has been created in some quarters that most Muslims are terrorists, the police often arrest some Muslims merely on suspicions.  Once such a Muslim is arrested it is difficult for him to get bail because when he applies for bail, the Public Prosecutor tells the court that the accused is a terrorist, and consequently bail is almost always refused.  The person often remains in jail for several years, and even if he ultimately  found innocent nobody can restore so many years of his life spent in jail.  The recent case of Amir who was arrested when he was 17 years old and kept for 14 years in jail until he was found innocent by the Court, illustrates the gross injustice which is often done to Muslims in India.  There are a large number of such cases of false implication of Muslims in bomb blast cases.

Shortly, after I become Chairman of the Press Council of India I gave an interview to Mr. Karan Thapar in his serial “Devil’s Advocate”. I stated that within a hour or so of a bomb blast many TV channels start showing on their screens that an e-mail or sms has been received from the Indian Mujahidin, Jaish-e- Mohammed, Harkatuljibad-e-Islam or some other organisations having a Muslim name, claiming responsibility.  I said in that interview that this was irresponsible on the part of the Media because any mischievous person can send such an e-mail or sms, and it is not even necessary that the sender is a Muslim.  By showing this on the TV screens a message is conveyed to the viewers, even if by insinuation, that all Muslims are terrorists and bomb throwers.  This promotes communalism in our society and hatred against Muslims. The truth is that 99% people of all communities, whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain or Parsee are good. I said this also in my first interaction with the media.

As stated by Mr. Wajahat Habibullah in his letter, even before the police investigation is completed a section of the media announces that the Indian   Mujahidin  is responsible for the Hyderabad bomb blast on 21.2.2013.

I have repeatedly stated in my articles and TV appearances that this is a country of tremendous diversity and hence the only way to keep it united and take it on the path of progress is secularism and giving equal respect to all communities and sections of society.  Hence promoting or fanning communal hatred is an anti national act.

It is indeed unfortunate that in recent years an impression has been sought to be created by certain communal elements that all Muslims are terrorists, and Muslims are often discriminated in our country in getting jobs, bank loans, houses on rent etc as mentioned in the Sachar Committee Report.

I, therefore appeal to the people of India, and particularly to the Media, to avoid doing anything which may fan or promote communal hatred and animosity, and exercise restraint in reporting cases of bomb blasts and other terrorist activities.

Justice Markandey Katju
Chairman, Press Council of India

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