MARCH 27, 2021

THE Delhi High Court has asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to respond to a petition challenging its decision refusing to take action against the TV9 Marathi channel for an allegedly homophobic show.

Petitioner Indrajeet Ghorpade, a gay man, alleged that in a programme titled ‘Aarogyam Dhanasampada – Sexual Problems and Solutions’ a guest speaker was invited by the television channel who said that homosexuality was a disease. The guest speaker also said persons with same-sex attractions ought to be taken to a doctor immediately to be cured and that he had cured a number of homosexual persons in the past.

Ghorpade initially took up the matter with the Marathi channel, which agreed to telecast a programme consisting of credible medical professionals etc., to clarify the position on sexuality, gender identity, gender expression and biological sex, but that did not happen.

Justice Pratibha Singh, after perusing the order of the MIB, observed that the ministry gave no reasons for its order as to why the programme telecast by TV-9 Marathi Channel was not in violation of the Programme Code.

Justice Singh also noticed that the order was passed by the ministry without affording a hearing to the petitioner.

Advocate Tushar Mathur appearing for the ministry said he would be willing to take instructions on whether his client is willing to reconsider the matter, after affording a hearing to the petitioner.

Advocate Payal Kakra, for TV9 Marathi, said that she would also seek instructions in respect of the programme consisting of credible medical professionals addressing issues of sexuality, gender expression etc., which had been discussed in the correspondence between the petitioner and the channel.

In his plea, Ghorpade said the broadcast of the show propagated harmful information with respect to homosexuality in gross violation of Rule 6(1)(d), (i), (j) and (l) of the Programme Code as well as in violation
of the fundamental rights of equality, non-discrimination, sexual expression, dignity, autonomy and health of the Petitioner guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution

“There is overwhelming medical opinion both internationally and in India that homosexuality is not a disease and attempts aimed at “curing” a person have serious negative consequences on the physical and mental health of a person. In 2017, Parliament has outlawed conversion therapy under Section 106 read with Section 3 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017”, the plea stated.

The plea also asserted that the ministry’s order was vague and breached the Supreme Court’s decision in Navtej Johar & Ors. v. Union of India, which held that homosexuality was not a crime or a disease.

The High Court has fixed April 5 as the next date of hearing.

Advocates Mihir Samson, Amritananda Chakravarty, Shreya Munoth, Ashwin Pantula,  Suhani Arya and Pradip Kumar Singh appeared for the petitioner

courtesy Leaflet