An independent judiciary is the bulwork of the free society, so is an
independent media. Thats why media is designated as the fourth estate or the
fourth branch of government in addition to the legislature, executive and
judiciary. Like the judiciary, the media must have an ethical basis, exposing
the many sides of truth. Laws are made by men but justice has great value as it
is based on natural justice or god's truth.
Media has helped to promote legal awareness and published the verdicts
of courts that have in too many ways expanded people's rights and protected
their interests, privacy, dignity and and good name. Media has reincarnated
itself into a "PUBLIC COURT" and has started interfering into court's
proceedings. Media's separate investigation builds a public opinion against
accused even before the court's cognizance of the case.
The term "media
" is derived from the word "medium" which means carrier or mode.
Media denotes an item specifically designed to reach large audience or viewers.
With the passage of time, the term got broadened by the invention of radio, tv,
cinemas and internet. It acts as huge connecting link between the sovereign and
its subjects. It acts like a back bone of democratic country.
- It acts as watchdog of democracy.
- It conveys messages, builds opinion and creates awareness among people.
- It plays a crucial role in shaping a healthy democracy.
- It acts as an interface between common man and democracy
Both the judiciary and media are engaged in the same task i.e, to discover
truth, to uphold the democratic values and to deal with social, political and
economic problems. The media in fact, has been called the "handmaiden of justice,
watchdog of society, the dispenser of justice and catalyst for social reforms".
Thus both are essential for the progress of a civil society. However, at times,
these two pillars of democracy are at loggerheads.
Under the Fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression, themedia
claims the right to investigate, to reveal, to expose and to highlight criminal
Mr. F. S. Nariman, the noted jurist, had once observed, "A responsible Press is
the handmaiden of effective judicial administration. The Press does not simply
publish information about cases and trials but, subjects the entire Justice –
hierarchy (police, prosecutors, lawyers, Judges, Courts), as well as the
judicial processes, to public scrutiny. Free and robust reporting, criticism
and debate contribute to public understanding of the rule of law, and to a
better comprehension of the entire Justice – system. It also helps improve the
quality of that system by subjecting it to the cleansing effect of exposure and
In Bennett Coleman & Co. the media group challenged the government's limitations
on the import of newsprint. In its judgment, the court found the Newsprint
Policy unconstitutional: "If as a result of reduction in pages the newspapers
will have to depend on advertisements as the main source of their income, they
will be denied dissemination of news and views.
That will also deprive them of
their freedom of speech and expression. On the other hand if as a result of
restriction on page limit the newspapers will have to sacrifice advertisements
and thus weaken the limit of financial strength, the Organisation may crumble.
The loss on advertisements may not only entail the closing down but also affect
the circulation and thereby infringe on freedom of speech and expression."
The case was especially significant because in 1971 India had been in a
state of emergency, with the President having the power to suspend fundamental
rights, during the Indo-Pakistan war. In 1975, the country was to be in a
similar situation when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed the
emergency again and the press faced censorship.
Quoting the landmark judgment, lawyer-researcher Praavita Kashyap remarked:
It was a judgement - during a time of intense
oppression or attempts at oppression – that really upheld the right of the press
and said how important it was to our society, and that restrictions on it were violative
of the Constitution.
Hon'blr justice Kurian Joseph of supreme court of India while addressing BCI
meet at chennai on 26-7-15 citing pressure on the judiciary during the
Nirbhaya's Rape Case, has stated that, "Please stop trying (cases) in the media
till the case is over. Never try a case in media, it creates a lot of pressure
on judges, they are also humans". Referring to "the amount of pressure that is
Recently, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana was speaking during the virtual
presentation ceremony of the Redink Awards by the Mumbai Press Club. Speaking
during the virtual presentation ceremony the chief justice said the media and
judiciary need to sail together. "The recent trend to sermonise about judgments,
and villainise judges, needs to be checked. The media must have belief and trust
in the judiciary.
As a key stakeholder in democracy, media has the duty to
defend and protect the judiciary from motivated attacks by evil forces. We are
together in 'Mission Democracy' and in promoting national interest. We have to
sail together," he said. He
also acknowledged the challenges faced by journalists. "Speaking truth to power
and holding up a mirror to society is an immense responsibility that is
extremely difficult to fulfil," Ramana said.
In the most recent case of "Media One
" , A popular Malayalam news channel, run
by a Muslim management, is known for its reports that are often critical of the Modi government and its policies. The channel's reporters have won several
journalism accolades, including RedInk and Ramnath Goenka Awards. On Monday, the
channel received a letter from the Ministry, barring its transmission over
security concerns. The I&B Ministry has said the ban was due to security
The order was soon stayed by the Kerala High Court after the channel
filed the petition. The court opined that a bar on the transmission should not
be directed until the case was decided, and passed an interim order in the
favour of MediaOne TV.
The petitioner had been issued a show cause notice on why the
Centre should not revoke its license keeping public order and national security
and integrity as a priority, on January 5. The parent company of the channel had
requested the government to not proceed with the notice without hearing the
company. The company also claimed that they had never been given reasons as to
how they violated the national security, and denied clearance. The ban has
sparked an uproar among its audience and Twitter users, who sought to tweet
against the decision with #StandWithMediaOne.
There is no denying that the reach of media present unprecedented opportunities
for judges and lawyers to stay connected with the community they serve. But
there are also risks and challenges inherent in thr use of social media by the
judiciary which highlights issues of integrity and ethics.
Media is a great connector, however, if it overwhelms all other aspects of
propriety and duty, it can become disintegrative and overflows with unnecessary
impressions that threaten wholesome and fair understanding of judgements.