On Wednesday, Delhi High Court sought the response of the Centre on a plea seeking a direction to restrain media houses from using the word 'Dalit' in news articles, alleging it creates "inequality" in the society. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued notice to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and asked it to take instruction on whether there is any law to prohibit the use of the word by media houses.
"Notice to respondent no.1 (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting). Take instruction whether there is any law which prohibits using of the word 'Dalit', which according to the petitioner is objectionable," the court said. It fixed 13 January, 2017, for further hearing of the plea by Prem Kumar Singh, who has also sought a direction to the Press Council of India to restrain all print and electronic media from using word 'Dalit' during broadcasting of news.
The bench then asked the petitioner that if such words should not be used, than what expression can be used in their place. Meanwhile, the counsel for the government told the bench that as of now there was no circular regarding such usage by the publishers. The bench asked the ministry to find out and inform the court on the next date of hearing.
Referring to some news headlines which had used the expression 'Dalit', the petitioner said, "The legislature has made provisions to ensure no one may create any kind of hatred or animosity between the different communities or religions of the country, so that there may be a harmonious atmosphere in the society". Aggrieved by the excessive use of words 'Dalit' and 'upper caste', the plea alleged that despite a law and guidelines in place, the media houses keep on raising the issue of 'Dalit' atrocities unnecessarily.
"Crime is crime and can be committed against or by any community and thus cannot be treated on different footing as against the crime committed by or against the people of the general community, especially when there is involvement of Scheduled Caste people," the plea said.
It said that "this kind of differentiation was an arbitrary act and against basic concept of equality enshrined in the Constitution of India". The petitioner urged the court to direct the Ministry and the press watchdog to take appropriate steps to ensure that the word may not be used unnecessarily and unjustifiably without any relevance of the same.
It said compliance with laws related to prohibition of use of community related words be ensured by the authorities concerned. Singh in his plea has said the authorities be directed to "keep a vigilant eye upon the publication and presentation of news by the media houses so that a harmonious atmosphere among the different religions, race, castes and community people may be created in the country".
He said that a penalty may be imposed on publishers for their act of creating an atmosphere in the country by presenting the news in a provocative and distorted manner.