BBC receives summons from Indian court over Modi defamation case

BBC receives summons from Indian court over Modi defamation case

The BBC has been issued summons by a court in India in connection with a defamation case filed against it for its documentary on prime minister Narendra Modi earlier this year.

The defamation suit relates to the BBC documentary titled India: The Modi Question, a two-part documentary which was banned in India and aired only in the UK.

The film attempts to examine the prime minister’s relationship with Muslims, the country’s largest minority group.

On Monday, the Delhi high court issued summons to the BBC while hearing a defamation suit filed by a Gujarat-based non-profit Justice on Trial, reported legal news portal LiveLaw.

“It is contended that the documentary makes defamatory imputation and castes slur on reputation of the country and the judiciary and against the prime minister. Issue notice to the respondents,” the court was quoted as saying by the outlet.

The first part of the series aired on 17 January and showed a previously unpublished report from the UK Foreign Office that holds Mr Modi “directly responsible” for the “climate of impunity” that enabled the Gujarat riots in 2002 to take place.

The violence occurred when Mr Modi was chief minister of the western state and led to the deaths of nearly 1,000 people – mostly Muslims.

The documentary also holds the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) responsible for the violence. The VHP is a right-wing organisation that claims its aim is to protect the Hindu religion. It is a part of an overall family of Hindu nationalist organisations that operates in the country.

Last year, India’s Supreme Court cleared Mr Modi of wrongdoing over the riots, with previous investigations finding there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him over allegations that he ordered police to step aside and let the riots play out.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the non-profit, claimed in court on Monday that the documentary defamed the entire country, including the judiciary.

“We are aware of the court proceedings. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage,” a BBC spokesperson told The Independent.

The summons to the British broadcaster comes weeks after a trial court in Delhi on 5 May issued summons to the BBC, Wikimedia Foundation and the Internet Archive, restraining them from publishing the same documentary.

The BBC had earlier defended itself and said its production abided by the “highest editorial standards”.

India’s federal government dubbed the documentary a “propaganda piece” that showed a “continued colonial mindset”.

Weeks after the release of the documentary, India’s tax authorities conducted raids on the BBC’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai.

Last month, authorities in India registered a case of alleged foreign exchange violations by the BBC.