The Ministry of Information and broadcasting has issued a show-cause notice to GSTV, a Gujarati television news channel, for airing what the ministry calls "objectionable programme content against a leader holding an esteemed office".
According to the a report published in the Economic Times, the ministry, without disclosing the name of the leader has mentioned in the notice: "...the channel says this leader initiated the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan but does he actually believe in Gandhian ideology or is he just using his name to earn respect". However all the details hints that the leader being spoken about is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Programme protested temple for Godse
The ministry's notice was provoked by the GSTV programme Gandhi Hatya Koni Jawabdari (Who is responsible for Gandhi's death) which was aired on Mahatma Gandhi's 67th death anniversary this year.
The 30-minute programme reportedly criticised some fringe Hindu groups' attempts to build a temple for Nathuram Godse.
The show also took pot-shots at the government for not stopping Godse's glorification and said Gandhi's thoughts cannot be taken forward by wearing expensive suits or by waving brooms in the air.
Comments in the programme may incite violence, according to the notice
The channel reportedly compared the lifestyle of Mahatma Gandhi and the leader and stated, "Gandhiji always lived a simple life, whereas he wears a suit worth Rs 9 lakh and moves in expensive cars."
The notice says: "While the channel has every right to question the conduct of a political leader, the way it has criticised him in the news item seems a deliberate attempt to malign his reputation which is repugnant of the esteemed office he holds."
"It has been observed that such comments aired by the channel in the said programme are not only bound to sully the image of the individual but may also potentially incite violent tendencies which may not be conducive to the law and order situation," the notice adds.
The news channel is reportedly owned by the same group that owns Gujarat Samachar, a prominent vernacular daily in the state.
Can't we express our opinion, asks channel
However, the channel in its response to the Ministry, has denied violating the programme code and said the show-cause notice completely overlooks their right to free speech and expression, which is enshrined in the Constitution.
Further, the matter was sent for review to an inter-ministerial committee which is yet to decide on the period of suspension for the channel.
Meanwhile, Gujarat Samachar co-owner and GSTV director Shreyans Shah has reportedly clarified that the channel has not taken names and that they respect the heads of the country. "But aren't we allowed to express our opinion?" he asked.