Madhavrao D. Pathak, Advocate
1. The legal fight against the shameful and motivated attempt of Doordarshan and the Government of India to project the usurper king of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, as a national hero, was a long, expensive and frustrating ordeal. According to authentic and documented history of the period, Tipu Sultan had hanged to death and sold as slaves a large number of innocent men, women, and children; looted and destroyed and burnt down hundreds of Hindu temples and Christian churches; and circumcised and converted to Muhammadanism thousands of Hindus and Christians in Mangalore, Coorg, Coimbatore, Dindigal, and Kerala. He had made territorial concessions to the French whose help he sought to fight the British. He had also sent emissaries to Islamic countries - Afghanistan, Iran, and Turky - inviting them to conquer the whole of North India for the glory and spread of Islam. But the Doordarshan serial on Tipu Sultan, based on a novel entitled The Sword of Tipu Sultan by Bhagwan Gidwani, was full of deliberate distortion, fabrication, and suppression of recorded facts of history with the object of glorifying a villain as a national hero, a benevolent ruler, and a paragon of all virtues.
2. The Petitioners objected to and protested against Doordarshan misusing the official media network to telecast a controversial serial full of lies, distortions and white-washed stories about a historical figure who was hated all over South India for his heinous crimes and cruelties in the service of Islam. This was bound to mislead the gullible general public into believing that a treacherous and cruel Islamic bigot was a renowned national hero - travesty of truth which is against the very spirit and purpose for which the Doordarshan was set up. It was for these reasons that the Petitioners requested the Bombay High Court (later the Supreme Court also) to restrain the Government of India and Doordarshan from telecasting the Tipu Serial based on the dubious novel of Bhagwan Gidwani. They asked the Court to direct the Doordarshan to project the character of Tipu Sultan based on his real life known from the recorded history of South India.
3. A mass petition signed by over 500 citizen was also sent to the Supreme Court, as a public interest litigation, for registering a case against the distortion of history and misuse of official media. The Supreme Court, however, did not entertain the petition without assigning any reason for its rejection.
4. Therefore, a legal notice was issued on December 23, 1989, on behalf of Shri B.N. jog, President of Hindu Ekjot, to (1) the Secretary, Information and Broadcasting Ministry, and (2) the Union Government, New Delhi, to restrain them from telecasting the controversial Tipu Serial for reasons given therein.
5. Subsequently but independently, Dr. P.C.C. Raja of the Zamorin Family of Calicut wrote to the Hon'ble Minister for Information, Shri P. Upendra, objecting to the Tipu Serial based on Gidwani's dubious novel which contained obscene and vulgar references to the Zamorin ruler of that time. He also asked the Minister to get the book itself banned as it insulted his ancestors.
6. On December 26, 1989, a Writ Petition was filed in the Bombay High Court jointly by (1) Dr. Ravindra Ramdas, (2) Shri R.G. Menon, (3) Shri P.C.C. Raja, and (4) Shri Ravi Varma. The Respondents to the Petition were (1) the Secretary, Information and Broadcasting Ministry, (2) the Director of Doordarshan, (3) Union of India, (4) Shri P. Upendra Hon'ble Minister for Information and Broadcasting, and (5) Shri K.R. Malkani who had cleared the tele-serial. Later, at the instance of the High Court, Shri Sanjay Khan, producer of the controversial serial, was also included as a Respondent.
7. The Bombay High Court presided over by justice S.C. Pratap and justice A.V. Savant heard the arguments of the Petitioners, and also of the opposite side, mainly Sanjay Khan. Then it dismissed the Petitioner's plea to stop Doordarshan from telecasting the controversial serial. The High Court was convinced about the authenticity and accuracy of source references presented by the Petitioners in order to prove and substantiate the crimes, cruelties, and treacherous activities of Tipu Sultan during his military occupation of Malabar. Some of these facts were even incorporated in the High Court's judgement. The High Court, however, said that the Writ was being dismissed because the scope and power of judicial review by the High Court were limited by the tests and parameters already laid by the Supreme Court. (See Court judgement in Appendix).
8. Subsequently, an appeal for judicial review and appropriate relief was filed in the Supreme Court which gave a verbal judgement allowing the Doordarshan to continue the telecast of the white-washed version of the life and deeds of Tipu Sultan. The Petitioners were painfully surprised and disappointed by the Supreme Court judgement not only because no relief was given but also because no convincing reasons were advanced for allowing the telecast of such a serial on the official network. This landmark judgement can be cited in future as justification and legal sanction for projecting Aurangzeb, Nadir Shah, Malik Kafur and a host of similar villains as national heroes.
9. The motto of Doordarshan is Satyam Shivam Sundaram. It has been constituted in order to provide entertainment, correct information and also to spread education. To allow Doordarshan to spread falsehood as historical truth through the Serial - The Sword of Tipu Sultan - is against the letter and spirit of the Doordarshan's motto. If Tipu Sultan is presented on official media as a great national hero and benevolent ruler now, tomorrow Mahmud Ghaznavi, Allaudin Khalji, Malik Kafur, Aurangzeb, and Nadir Shah etc. can also be presented as paragons of great virtues on the same media.
10. While Doordarshan is officially sponsoring and projecting distorted versions of historical events relating to a notorious Islamic ruler who offered territorial concessions to the French and invited Islamic countries to invade North India in support of his own jîhâd in South India, many a serial on respected national heroes are deliberately refused permission for being telecast on national network. For example, the T.V. Serial on Veer Savarkar was made in 1987 by Prof. Hirananda Shrivastava. The script was approved by the then Information and Broadcasting Minister, Shri V.N. Gadgil. A Pilot serial of six episodes was shot in Europe and submitted to the Doordarshan on February 23, 1987. The episodes were seen and approved by V.N. Gadgil, Vasant Sathe, and Ajit Panja. Thy covered mainly the progress of our Freedom Struggle and the heroic deeds of Veer Savarkar during the period. But the Doordarshan rejected the serial on June 3, 1987 on flimsy grounds like poor cast, bad presentation, preaching revolutionary ideas, etc. On the other hand, in the case of Tipu Sultan, Doordarshan had no hesitation to clear the lengthy serial after seeing only the first 3-4 episodes in which the serial's hero, Tipu Sultan, had not even appeared on the scene. The anti-Hindu distortion of an original episode in a novel - Tamas - and the boosting of a historically discredited Bahadur Shah as the last great Mughal Emperor, was never objected to by the Mandi House.
11. There is rampant corruption, favouritism, and nepotism in the Doordarshan. The fast action by the machinery of Doordarshan taken in the case of Tipu Sultan, throws much light on its working. Experience shows that the bureaucracy of Doordarshan is more powerful than the Hon'ble Minister in charge of the Department. The agents of corruption have an upper hand over the bureaucracy. It is a very sorry state of affairs. The forums of Legislature and Executive in a democracy fail very often to redress the grievances and, therefore, the only hope is judiciary. There is no adequate and prompt alternative or efficacious remedy except approach to the High Court or the Supreme Court in their extraordinary jurisdiction. However, experience shows that this forum also is not above board. The citizens seem to be helpless in the circumstances. Still they look to the judiciary for justice.
12. The authorities at the helm of Doordarshan act expeditiously in approving and displaying certain serials. By the time the people come to know of the mischief done, and approach the judiciary, the serial is in the midst of being completed (as happened in the case of the serials on Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Tamas, and some others). In the case of Tamas, contrary to the original version of a Mulla throwing the dead pig into the mosque, the Doordarshan deliberately twisted the event and showed a young Hindu doing the mischief and thus fomenting communal riots. When the judiciary was approached, it refused to direct the Doordarshan to stick to the original version.
13. The judiciary is also slow in taking decisions when the malafides of the persons concerned with the serials are exposed. People are now quite aware of the fact of a "committed judiciary". Justice delayed is justice denied. The ultimate result is frustration of the common man, and erosion of credibility of the judiciary. When the four pillars of democracy - the Legislature, the Executive, the Judiciary and the Press - fail in giving justice to the common man it gives birth to revolution.
14. The Advocate of the Petitioners served a notice to the Advocate of Doordarshan not to telecast the serial during the pendency of the Writ Petition in the Bombay High Court stating that it would amount to contempt of court. A contempt petition was also filed on June 11, 1990. Inspite of this, the serial was telecasted on September 19, 1990, and the Court was not informed about the start of the tele-serial, even though the legal process was continuing in the Court. The Court also preferred not to take any notice or raise any objection to the surprise of the Petitioners.
15. There were nearly 14 days of hearing in the Bombay High Court. On June 29, 1990, Shri Yakub Sayed, Dy. Director (Programmes), Doordarshan Kendra, Bombay, filed an application opposing the admission of the Petition and grant of interim relief. The application was filed only for this limited purpose. The affidavit he gave did not reply to any of the allegations contained in the Petition. Even so on August 30, 1990, the matter was heard and the Petition was dismissed at the admission stage itself. Prayer for leave of appeal to the Supreme Court was also rejected.
16. During the hearings, it was suggested by the Court that the Petitioners withdraw the Petition. The suggestion was turned down immediately by the Petitioners. This matter was of the nature of public interest litigation. The Petitioners had no personal interest, and were seeking no gain. They were fighting for a nationalistic and patriotic cause and to uphold certain principles.
17. In September, 1990, Petition for special leave to appeal (Civil) was filed against the judgement dated August 30, 1990 passed by Bombay High Court.
18. The points of law of great public importance stated in the Petition were - whether the T.V. Serial on Tipu Sultan was in conformity to the guidelines for sponsored programmes issued by the Doordarshan on July 18, 1986; whether the High Court was right in not going into the question of the pre-review committee; whether the High Court has powers of judicial review in view of the contents of two Gazetteers from Kerala and Mysore produced by the Petitioners; whether the High Court was right in allowing a controversial serial to be telecast for its remaining episodes; whether the High Court was right in dismissing the Writ Petition; whether the High Court has considered rightly the provisions of Article 19(2) as to reasonable restrictions on the freedom of expression; whether the test laid down under Article 19(2) has been compiled with by the Producers; and whether on the contentions and the record produced by the Petitioners before the High Court, the restrictions imposed in Article 19(2) have been properly exercised by the persons concerned.
All these clearly explain and establish the dominant character of Tipu Sultan as a fanatic and cruel Islamic ruler, as inviting foreign imperial powers to invade and subjugate the country, and also as committing every known method of cruelty to convert Hindus. He did all this for the glory and spread of Islam in India. He never had any patriotic sentiments nor high principles as depicted in the scandalous novel of Bhagwan Gidwani.
The Hon'ble Supreme Court, after stating that all
the places, personalities and events are historical, allowed the Doordarshan
to telecast the distorted version of the life and deeds of Tipu Sultan
as a non-historical fiction. The only satisfaction for the Petitioners
was that they fought a prolonged legal battle against the distortion of
history and the mischief of Doordarshan, both in the Bombay High Court
as well as in the Supreme Court. Though they failed to get justice, their
valiant fight will encourage future generations to take up similar national