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इंडियन आवाज़     17 Apr 2024 02:47:11      انڈین آواز

SC washes off hand from framing media guidelines

(Last Updated On: 11/09/2012)

A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said that the freedom of speech and expression is not an absolute a right under the constitution and journalists should know the Lakshman Rekha so that they do not cross the limit of contempt.

“No guidelines can be framed across the board to regulate media reporting of sub-judice matters,” Chief Justice S.H Kapadia, heading a constitution bench, said while pronouncing the verdict.

“Finding an acceptable constitutional balance between free press and administration of justice is a difficult task in every legal system,” CJI  said.

The court said that it was laying down the constitutional principle which will allow the aggrieved parties to seek from appropriate court the postponement of the publication of court hearings.

The bench said the concerned court will decide the question of postponement of reporting court proceedings on case-by-case basis. While propounding the doctrine of postponement of publication of court proceedings, the bench said it is a preventive measure and not a prohibitive and punitive measure.

The court said that this postponement of reporting by media would be for a short duration.

The court, however, clarified that any such order will be of short duration – subject to the principle of necessity and proportionality. The court said that such an order will be “preventive and not punitive” action.

Besides Chief Justice Kapadia, other judges on the constitution bench included Justice D.K.Jain, Justice S.S.Nijjar, Justice Ranjana Prakash DFesai and Justice J.S.Khehar.

“Thus”, the court said that “postponement order not only safeguards fairness of the later or connected trials, it prevents possible contempt by the Media.”   

“The principle underlying postponement orders is that it prevents possible contempt”, the court said.  

“Of course”, the court said that “before passing postponement orders, Courts should look at the content of the offending publication (as alleged) and its effect.  Such postponement orders operate on actual publication.  Such orders direct postponement of the publication for a limited period.”  
The court said the right to freedom of speech including media reporting under the Indian Constitution was not an absolute right and is subject to classification and the test of reasonableness.

“… right to freedom of expression under the First Amendment in US is absolute which is not so under Indian Constitution in view of such right getting restricted by the test of reasonableness and in view of the Heads of Restrictions under Article 19(2)”, the judgment said.

Referring to the contention that restricting media or postponing the media reporting  of a case was contrary to open justice which is the cornerstone of  India’s judicial system, the court said that “Thus, the principle of open justice is not absolute. There can be exceptions in the interest of administration of justice.”  

Pointing to the powers of court in directing media to postpone reporting of a sub-judice matter, the judgment said, “… in most jurisdictions there is power in the courts to postpone reporting of judicial proceedings in the interest of  administration of justice. Under Article 19(2) of the Constitution, law in relation to contempt of  court, is a reasonable restriction.”  

The court said that the aggrieved litigant can obtain the order or postponement on case-to-case basis only by moving either the Supreme Court or a high court which in turn may restrain the media from reporting a particular case for a limited period.

The court said it was issuing the directions to balance the right of media to report and that of litigants to a fair trial.
The court said this in a much awaited judgment whose hearing was triggered following an application by the Real estate arm of Sahara group of companies after a February 7, 2012, personal letter written by its counsel Fali Nariman to SEBI counsel containing proposal for securing money that two Sahara real estate companies had mopped up from the market was telecast by a news channel February 10, 2012 – a day before the hearing of the matter by the apex court.

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