Cannot stop media reports on court observations, says India Supreme Court

NEW DELHI, MAY 03, 2021 19:01 IST The Hindu 

Public interest not limited to judgments, Bench tells ECI on plea against remarks by Madras HC

The media cannot be stopped from reporting oral remarks made by judges during a court hearing. The honest and full reportage of these comments gives the public an insight into whether judges are genuinely applying their minds to resolve their crisis, the Supreme Court told a “hurt” Election Commission of India (ECI) on Monday.

The ECI had complained to the Supreme Court about certain oral comments made by a Division Bench of the Madras High Court. The HC judges had accused the ECI of being solely responsible for the super-spread of COVID infection through uncontrolled election rallies, campaigning, etc. Instead of patting the EC officials on their backs, the HC judges had said the ECI should be charged with “murder”.

Soon after, a troubled ECI had approached the HC to take back its words and restrain the media from reporting the comments as FIRs for murder were registered against the poll body officials. But the HC had, on April 30, refused to budge, saying there were more pressing issues at hand.

“We cannot expect the media not to report dialogues. Oral observations are as important as orders… The unfolding of the process of judicial thinking is equally of interest to the public,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud addressed the ECI, represented by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi.

Justice Chandrachud flanked by Justice M.R. Shah on the Bench described the “media as a powerful watchdog”.

“Public interest is not limited to judgments, but also the raising of questions in a court hearing, the dialogue between the Bar and the Bench… All of these show the public whether there was a genuine application of mind by judges… Had I been in the Bar, I would be very worried if judges don’t ask questions,” Justice Chandrachud said.

The Bench said the ECI’s prayer to stop media from reporting the comments from the Bench was simply “far-fetched”.

“We cannot say that the media cannot report the contents of the discussions in a court of law. Discussions in a court of law are of equal public interest, and I would put it on the same pedestal as the final order. Discussion in the court is a dialogue between the Bar and the Bench… We wish that the media should report fully what is happening in court. It brings a sense of accountability. Media reporting would also show that we are dispensing our duties fully,” Justice Chandrachud said.

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