The BBC has been issued an Indian high court summons over its documentary, India: The Modi Question, according to local reports.
The Delhi High Court has issued the notice in a defamation suit launched over the doc, which explores Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision making during the 2002 Gujarat riots and is banned in India.
The suit claims the doc slurs India’s reputation and that of its judiciary and Modi, who has been Prime Minister for nine years.
According to local media, Justice Sachin Datta has issued the summons and the case will be further considered in September. A Gujarat-based non-profit organization is reported to have brought the suit.
“It is contended that the said documentary makes defamatory imputations and caste slurs on the reputation of the country and the judiciary, and against the Prime Minister of India. Issue notice to the respondents through all permissible modes,” said Justice Datta.
The Indian government, meanwhile, has tried to have the BBC banned in its entirety. This was thrown out, but the the BBC’s offices in Mumbai and New Delhi were raided by income tax authorities in mid-February.
The doc has been called “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage” by the Indian government and sparked protests by members of Britain’s Indian diaspora outside BBC New Broadcasting House in January.
But many Indians appear to watching the doc. We reported analysis from Parrot Analytics that shows Indian viewers are finding ways to stream it, despite the ban. While The Modi Question is only available in full on the UK’s BBC iPlayer, clips of the show on social media and YouTube have been banned in India.
The doc focus on coverage of Modi’s management of Gujarat riots when he was Chief Minister in the Indian state, when a suspected Muslim mob set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. The incident sparked one of the worst outbreaks of religious bloodshed in independent India and Modi has been accused of failing to do enough to stop the violence. He was exonerated by a Supreme Court inquiry in 2012 and a petition questioning his exoneration was dismissed last year.
The BBC has previously stood by its documentary and said it “does not have an agenda” in India. The broadcaster didn’t immediately respond to request for comment this morning.
The news comes as Modi and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak were pictured over the weekend together at the G7 conference in Japan. They are working on a post-Brexit trade deal, but political news sites suggest a deal remains far off.