LAW RESOURCE INDIA

Judiciary can’t regulate press freedom: Jethmalani

Posted in MEDIA ETHICS, MEDIA ISSUES, MEDIA LAW by NNLRJ INDIA on April 19, 2012
Ram Jethmalani (born September 10, 1923) is an...

Ram Jethmalani (born September 10, 1923) is an Indian politician and a famous and controversial criminal lawyer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DHANANJAY MAHAPATRA IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: Former law minister, MP and senior advocate Ram Jethmalani on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it would be unconstitutional to curtail or regulate press freedom through judicially evolved guidelines because Parliament alone was competent to undertake this exercise through legislative route.

Appearing for a media association before a five-judge constitution bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices D K Jain, S S Nijjar, Ranjana P Desai and J S Khehar, the octogenarian lawyer suggested that the best method to evolve guidelines for reporting subjudice matters without infringing the rights of the accused was to seek consensus through meetings between judges, lawyers and leaders of the media.

“The guideline evolved through this process could be recommended to Parliament for appropriate legislative action. I can assure you that Parliament would act on such a recommendation,” he said.

Though the bench had doubts about the efficacy of normative guidelines in protecting fair trial because of excessive reporting intruding into the domain of judges in certain cases, it said, “If we have to recommend, we will do so. There is no problem at all. But the limited question is what should the court do when a person approaches it complaining against media’s blatant breach of his right to presumption of innocence till pronounced guilty? Would the court be breaching Article 19 if it protects the right of the accused by ordering deferment of reporting for a short period.”

Jethmalani was unrelenting. He said, “A pre-publication ban is ultra vires. A guideline to this effect is unconstitutional. Even if the Supreme Court has some legislative power, when the issue involves Article 19, restrictions must come from a statute made by Parliament.”

However, he agreed that if a constitutional court was convinced that a newspaper report compromised the right of an accused and jeopardized fair trial or administration of justice, it could surely put a ban on subsequent publication of the matter.

Jethmalani said the malady of misreporting or biased reporting could be controlled if the judges shed their populist approach and sent a couple of errant journalists to jail under contempt of court law.

“Contempt of court law is not invoked as much as it should be to invoke the fear of god in journalists. The court will not have to worry about media guidelines if contempt jurisdiction is invoked and sent a message that press cannot get away with contemptuous reports,” he said.

Appearing for the Statesman newspaper, counsel Madhavi Goradia Divan argued against court-framed media guidelines saying mere reporting of trial proceedings would not vilify anyone as the public was aware of the cardinal principle ‘presumption of innocence till pronounced guilty’.

On the flip side, she said well-intentioned guidelines could be taken out of context and attempts would be made to achieve something which was completely different from what the court was intending to do. “The trial courts are well aware of the powers conferred on them to control reporting of proceedings in a criminal case,” she said.

The bench clarified, “Our effort is not to punish but to prevent. This exercise is an awareness process for everyone. We want to put in guidelines to avoid certain situations by deferring reporting for a limited period of time. We are not going into reporting of other wings of government but of a limited restraint on reporting as far as court proceedings are concerned.” The arguments will continue on Wednesday.

Judiciary can’t regulate press freedom: Jethmalani

3 Responses

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  1. ronak22 said, on April 19, 2012 at 21:30

    Well i don’t know whether i have the ability to speak contrary to greatest lawyer and my ideal lawyer as i am also a final year law student and about to start my legal carrier.
    But i think i should also say something about judiciary curtailing the ropes of media which as alleges by many lawyers and so by Jethmalani ji.
    And I also affirm that is true regularizing by indirect method where direct powers are given to legislature.
    Well according to my knowledge supreme court has the power to legislate and make rules for courts and can set certain parameters for media also.
    As harassment by media or media trail is violate the fundamental rights of accused even though it is easy to presume innocence till proved guilty but in reality , demons of media take all the peace of accused and person in interest of accused.
    Continuous and uninterrupted phone calls, daily publication of negative image onver TV and newspapers and media interview of friends and family of accused make the life of accused miserable and his probability to reconcile in the society once again is almost impossible.
    It is the right time before the pressure of public emerge on media or tv reporters it is in the best interest of everybody to follow some rules and regulation then why media not…
    Everybody say and try to make an environment that media should not be restricted but why not???
    Just because some media people talk over tv shows and try to prove to public that our wings shouldn’t be cut others there will be no democracy I think that notion is completely wrong.
    It will be better if everybody know their limits , it is in best interest of society and also in country peace.
    I think media of India or we can say TV NEWS Channels of India are the worst news channels of the world, If they are reading my article they should try to improvise in this area also and forget about TRP’S …………
    What they are doing is talking and showing same news from morning to evening and nothing new ………they are not revolutionized like media of England or America who are constantly making their efforts to help legislature and judiciary their in their own country by showing the truth to whole world.
    Media in these country are equipped with modern weapons to sheer the shield of corrupt people there .
    What an Indian Want:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::;
    ” THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH “…………..

    MY SUGGESTION DO NOT WORRY ABOUT CUTTING OF WINGS OF MEDIA BY COURT………BUT DO:::::
    1. FIND THE REAL DEFAULTERS OF 2-G SCAM OR ANY OTHER SCAMS
    2, FIND THE INDIAN MONEY WASTED IN FOREIGN LAND
    3. FIND THE MOTHER OF ALL SCAMS.
    4. FIND THE TRUTH OF RELUCTANT EXECUTIVE OF INDIA
    5. COME WITH STORY BEHIND THE SCREENS OF POLITICANS
    6. WHAT IS YOUR ROLE IN IMPROVING INDIA or just making time pass if they want themself to be the important pillars of constitution.
    7 DEBATE BRINGS SOMETHING BUT NOT EVERYTHING
    8 MEDIA CAN BRING REVOLUTION SO WHEN YOU WILL WAKE YOURSELF FROM DREAM THAT IT IS THE LEGISLATURE WHO HAS TO DO EVERYTHING.
    9 ARE MEDIA ABLE TO REMOVE CORRUPTION FROM INDIA.
    10 PLEASE GIVE ME AT LEAST ONE THING THAT MEDIA HAS DONE TO MAKE INDIA PROUD…..

    NAME ONE INDIAN TV CHANNEL OR NEWS PAPER WHO HAS THE ABILITY TO BE COME WIKILEAKS………….

    At least for the first time judiciary is doing something because our legislature have lost their ability to do some useful work and also lost faith in the eyes of public…..
    IT IS THE JUDICIARY LEFT ALONE WHERE A COMMON MAN HAS FAITH I BELIEVE THAT

    FAMOUS MAXIM:
    king can’t do wrong in 18t century means crown or king can’t never do wrongs things and he is liable before anybody

    In 1950 KING is LEGISLATURE i.e legislature can’t do wrong and he is liable before anybody

    Which changes to

    IN 2012

    “COURT CAN’T DO WRONG”

  2. vijay said, on April 24, 2012 at 11:39

    Media reporting should be taken at par with the advocates arguing their respective case. It is wrong to assume that the courts/judges get carried away by the arguments of the advocates and similarly the media reporting. All these, advocates and media reporting helps in better judgement of the case based on the facts on record and the laws. If media reporting needs guidelines then the same should be the case for the advocates argueing the case.

  3. kanta said, on May 1, 2012 at 20:33

    freedom of media does not mean wrong reporting media should be restricted to give wrong report / or suppress the news or modify the news.


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