An Uttar Pradesh Assembly committee constituted to probe a sting operation aired by a news channel on the role of cabinet minister Azam Khan in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots today gave a clean chit to him and recommended “appropriate punishment” for the channel’s officials for defaming him.
The 7-member panel, headed by Satish Kumar Nigam, concluded that ‘Aaj Tak’ sought to put Khan in the dock without “adequate evidence”.
“It was said in the story that the minister had directed ‘jo ho raha hai hone do’ (Allow whatever is happening). On the contrary, no such evidence was there in the channel’s recordings,” it added.
The report said the way in which the “malicious and untrue” story was aired, it affected “social harmony” in the state. The committee was constituted in September 2013 after a resolution in this regard was passed by the Assembly.
Nigam, while presenting the report in the House, alleged the electronic media is involved in the “game of TRP” and, for “earning money”, it forgot the negative impact it could have on the society.
The probe committee concluded that before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls there was social polarisation due to the sting and it affected its results. Thus, it appeared that the sting was influenced by “political motives”, it said.
“It was against arrangements made by Supreme Court, High Court and NBA guidelines. Action is expected against channel officials,” it said.
It was of the view that the channel committed breach of privilege of the House by not making available to the panel raw footage of the sting and the camera with which it was shot and recommended punishment for that.
The committee also recommended action under relevant sections of IPC against the channel for “disturbing” harmony between different sections of the society.
The Nigam committee also said that the conduct of police and administrative officers shown in the sting was also against regulations and action should be taken against them.
Speaker, Mata Prasad Pandey said the business advisory committee would decide the time and duration of discussion on the report.
The 350-page report held the channel and its officials guilty of violation of section 5 of Cable Television Networks Regulation act 1995 and recommended that the Home department take action against it under relevant laws.
The committee also recommened that the UP House send a proposal to the Centre for taking appropriate action against the channel under Article 20 of Cable TV Networks regulation Act 1995. It also suggested sending a proposal to the Centre for regulating the electronic media.
The communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas had claimed 60 lives, while over 40,000 people were displaced after which “Aaj Tak” channel had aired the story based on a sting operation accusing Khan of involvement in the riots.