Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: The present petition was filed under Article 226 of the Constitution for issuance of directions to respondents to allocate a 24-hours Sindhi Channel on Doordarshan in order to fulfil its constitutional obligation. Sudhir Kumar Jain, J., opined that this Court could not give directions to respondents for opening of a new Doordarshan Channel for the Sindhi Community which was purely a governmental function.

Petitioner claimed to be a registered non-profit organization which endeavoured to promote and preserve 5000 years old Sindhi Culture and language. It was stated that the Sindhi Community was a Linguistic Minority and as such respondents were under obligation to take effective and meaningful steps for preservation and promotion of Sindhi language and culture. But the State had miserably failed to take appropriate steps to fulfill this constitutional obligation.

It was submitted that the Government was taking multiple steps to promote other minorities, but Sindhi Community did not find any place in any other policy of the Government as per the mandate of Article 14 of the Constitution. It was also submitted that the persons belonging to the Sindhi Community post-independence had migrated to various parts of the country and due to this reason, Sindhi operation was scattered in various States as minority. Thus, petitioner was seeking allocation of 24-hour PAN India Sindhi channel on Doordarshan which would contribute to the promotion of Sindhi language and culture.

Respondent 2, Doordarshan submitted that it followed the same language policy as All India (‘AIR’). AIR language policy stated that “AIR stations broadcast programmes in the principal language of the Region/State in which the station was located” and provision for “broadcast in dialects and other language was made if there was a communication imperative”. In 2009, Doordarshan Kendra, Ahmedabad had sent a Preliminary Project Report for a 24-hour Sindhi Channel and as per the said project report, setting up of a full time Sindhi Channel would have incurred a cost of Rs 8.55 crore p.a. for software and staff and Rs 10.96 crore for Engineering Wing, thus resulting in a total cost of Rs 19.51 crore p.a.

Respondent 2 also submitted that “as per 2011 census, the number of Sindhi speaking persons in the country was approximately 26 lakhs. Sindhi was not the principal language of any state, just as Bodo, Dogri, Maithali, Santali, Sanskrit and Nepali languages. Sindhi was the second language in Gujarat with a Sindhi speaking population of about 10 lakhs and fourth in Rajasthan. One of the circumstances taken into consideration while considering whether or not to start a new channel was the number of potential viewers of the same. A full-time channel for the viewership of only 26 lakh persons in the country was not sustainable.”.

It was submitted that Respondent 2 had always been alive to its responsibility of giving adequate coverage to various regions and languages. In discharge of that duty, Respondent 2 had been duly telecasting programmes in Sindhi language on its DD Girnar, DD Rajasthan, and DD Sahyadri channels, which covered areas where the Sindhi population was mainly concentrated i.e., Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. The said channels were available throughout the country and were also carried on the DTH platform of Doordarshan. Doordarshan was also exploring the possibility of having a dedicated slot/window for Sindhi Programmes on one of the regional channels.

The Court opined that there could not be any two opinions that the Sindhi Community being a Minority was having a right for the preservation of its own heritage and culture. Respondent 2 was telecasting various programmes for the Sindhi Community, and it was not workable for this Court to give directions to respondents for opening of a new Doordarshan Channel for the Sindhi Community which was purely a governmental function.

The Court disposed of the petition and opined that respondents should make every possible effort and endeavour to open a new Doordarshan Channel for the Sindhi Community in the future as per policy and other guidelines.

[Asha Chand v. Union of India, 2024 SCC OnLine Del 1408, Order dated 9-2-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Petitioner: Aaditya Gore, Advocate

For the Respondents: Anil Soni, CGSC; Devvrat Yadav, Radhalakshmi R, Advocates

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