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Media And Indian Judiciary

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.

  1. It acts as watchdog of democracy.
  2. It conveys messages, builds opinion and creates awareness among people.
  3. It plays a crucial role in shaping a healthy democracy.
  4. It acts as an interface between common man and democracy

Judicial Interpretation:
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 cases.

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 public accountability."

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 built".

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 reasons.

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.

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