SC to hear Chautala's plea to restrain TV episode

New Delhi, Mar 1 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday said it will hear next week former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala's plea to restrain a television channel from telecasting an episode based on the teachers' recruitment scam for which he has been convicted.

After a brief hearing upon the mentioning of the matter by senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, a bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Vikramajit Sen said that it would hear the matter Wednesday.

The petition moved by Chautala and two others has challenged the Delhi High Court's order Thursday by which a division bench set aside the single judge's Feb 22 order restraining Sony TV from the telecast of the episode of "Crime Patrol Dastak" till April 4 when their appeal challenging their conviction was to come up for hearing.

The episode is a reconstruction of the scam.

Rohtagi told the court that reconstruction of the scam has all the ingredients - class rooms, encounter with the chief minister and the officials. He told the court the story to be telecast alleges that Rs.two to three lakh were purportedly taken for the recruitment of per teacher but there was no such finding by the trial court that convicted his clients in January.

Chautala, currently lodged in the Tihar Jail following his conviction by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court here, was chief minister from 1999 to 2005 when 3,206 junior basic trained reachers were recruited in 2000.

As Chief Justice Kabir asked, "Do they (the TV channel) say so that it was not fiction but a reconstruction of the trial and the case", Rohtagi replied that they have said it is not fiction but a reconstruction of teachers recruitment scam.

The episode's promos say that the scam took place in 2000 in Haryana when Chautala was the chief minister, he said.

As Rohtagi contended that the telecast would prejudice the hearing of the appeal of his clients, senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the channel, said: "His appeal is in the high court. Surely the high vourt judges are not going to see the serial and decide the appeal."

Describing petition by Chautala and two others as plea for "pre-censorship" and "gag against the media", Salve said: "I am at loss to understand how the hearing of the appeal is going to be influenced (by telecast of the episode)."

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