Judicial System – Media – The existing frame work of law provides enough remedies for suitably dealing with false and motivated accusations against the individual members of the judiciary.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM
J. Chelameswar, C.J. and Antony Dominic, J.
WP (C). No. 8450 of 2011 (S)
Decided On: 07.04.2011
Venjaramoodu M. Ziyad Vs. Union of India and Ors.
For Petitioner: Sanu S. Panicker, Adv.; For Respondents: No Appearance
J U D G M E N T
J. Chelameswar, C.J.
1. The Petitioner claims to be an Advocate and asserts a “right and responsibility to protect the judiciary from its ridicule ….”. The petition is full of vague and omnibus statements. It is argued by the learned Counsel for the Petitioner that the reporting of the proceedings of the various courts in this country by media on some occasions is either inaccurate and sometimes even false. According to the Petitioner, such publications are likely to damage the credibility of the judiciary. At para 3 of the petition, in this regard it is stated as follows:
“Any wrongful message published in the medias, regarding the court proceedings and judge’s opinion, will certainly decrease the credibility of the judiciary in the society and hence the medias should not be permitted to publish the court proceedings and Judge’s opinion regarding the pending cases in their own interpretation and if the media wants to publish the court proceedings and Judge’s opinion in a pending case, there must be some procedures to be followed.”
Further it is stated as para 7 of the petition as follows:
“Judiciary is the highest constitutional institution of the nation. Every person in the nation has a right to protect the judiciary. Though the right to speech and expression is the constitutional right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, it is not an absolute right, but subject to reasonable restriction on the exercise of the right is always permissible in the interest of the State, public safety or the maintenance of the public order, decency or morality or in relation to defamation or incitement to an offence. Therefore, it is not unconstitutional to impose some restriction to speech or publish any matter which defame the entire judicial system. The public in general always believe the judiciary and is independence and also its credibility and hence no one shall be permitted to raise an allegation against the judiciary and the judicial system by a speech in a public meeting. Certainly every person has a right to know about the corrupt persons sitting in the judiciary and if a person has got knowledge that a particular Judge is corrupt, he has to make a proper complaint against the corrupted Judge before the competent Court, instead of raising an allegation in the public meeting and no media shall publish such an allegation through the TV Channel in the interest of security of State, public safety and maintenance of public order, law and morality. No doubt that the allegation against the former Judges of the judiciary will certainly question the credibility of entire judicial system and it will amount to judicial anarchy in the society and the media have great role in preventing the judicial anarchy by not publishing the defamatory statement alleged against the judiciary. That when there is a judicial anarchy came into existence, it will adversely affect the judicial system and it amount to collapse of entire judicial system. Therefore, every individual in the national have a right to protect the interest of the judiciary and no one shall be permitted to raise an allegation against judiciary or Judges or its Former Judges in a public meeting and if any citizen has a case that a particular Judge is corrupt, proper complaint has to institute against the alleged corrupted Judge. As stated above, media is also having a duty to protect the interest of the judiciary and media should take all steps to prevent the judicial anarchy in the nation.”
A reading of the petition leaves an impression on this Court that the Petitioner is troubled on account of some allegations which appeared in the media in the recent past regarding the integrity of certain members of the Indian Judiciary. More particularly, the Petitioner refers to the statement of a Member of the Parliament made in a public meeting That the Petitioner had an occasion to see the statement which has been made by Shri. K. Sudhakaran, Member of Parliament to the effect that “a former Judge of the Hon’ble Apex Court has accepted bribe and gave favorable orders in a particular case” and the above statement has been made in a public meeting and the said statement definitely affect the entire judicial system in a bad manner and which will leads to anarchy and destruction of our democratic set up. The Petitioner had an occasion to watch the above said statement through TV Channel. Therefore, the allegation in the above manner should not be permitted to be made against the Judiciary and such person should not get protection under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. The democratic set up is the basic feature of our constitution and if any attempt to destroy the democratic set up certainly will affect the security of the State and public order. Hence no person is entitled to raise an allegation which danger to the nation and judiciary and no one shall entitle to publish the same availing the right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The Petitioner had also witnessed other defamatory statement has been raised by one Mr. Rauf against the judiciary and it has come to the knowledge of the Petitioner that the aforesaid Rauf has made the defamatory statement in a Press Conference and the Petitioner had watched the same through a TV Channel. The aforesaid statement indicate that the former Judges of Hon’ble Kerala High Court had accepted bribe and gave a favorable order in a particular case and this issue was circulated by the media. It is pertinent to note that no one shall entitle to publish, circulate any statement which affect the free functioning of the judiciary as well as the statement which affect the credibility of the entire judicial system in our country. Therefore, reasonable restrictions should be made to the media and TV Channels/any communication method, when reporting the grave allegations raised against the judiciary and media is not justified in publishing the same by availing the benefit of Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution
2. Therefore, the writ petition is filed with a number of prayers, as follows:
a) Issue a writ in the nature of mandamus, or any other appropriate writ, order or direction directing the Respondents 1 to 3 not to publish the Court proceedings and Judge’s opinion while dealing the case without proper sanction obtained in writing from the court concerned, till the rule and regulation is framed by the 5th Respondent;
b) Issue a writ in the nature of mandamus, or any other appropriate writ, order or direction directing the Respondents 1 to 3 to frame a rule and regulation imposing reasonable restrictions to medias and communication channel when publishing the matter affecting the credibility of the judiciary;
c) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus directing the 4th Respondent not to produce the person accused in a crime before the media for his bad publicity and for degrading his personal dignity merely on the ground that he is allegedly involved in any offence;
d) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus, directing the 5th Respondent to frame a rule and regulation regulating the media to publish proceedings of the courts within the State involving the Judges opinion expressed while dealing the case;
e) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus, directing the Respondents 1 to 3 to take necessary steps for not publishing or telecasting the statement of a person which affect the credibility or question the credibility of the judicial system in the country;
f) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus, directing the Respondents 1 to 3 to take necessary steps to restrain the media from telecasting any interview or discussion with regard to pending case through any communication media;
g) Issue an order or direction for protecting and maintaining the credibility of judicial system in the country;h) Such other relief as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit in the interest of justice
3. In our opinion, the writ petition is to be dismissed at the threshold in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in
# Naresh Vs. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1967 SC 1.
At para 20 of the said judgment, the Supreme Court observed as follows:
“Public trial in open court is undoubtedly essential for the healthy, objective and fair administration of justice. Trial held subject to the public scrutiny and gaze naturally acts as a check against judicial caprice or vagaries, and serves as a powerful instrument for creating confidence of the public in the fairness, objectivity, and impartiality of the administration of justice. Public confidence in the administration of justice is of such great significance that there can be no two opinions on the broad proposition that in discharging their functions as judicial Tribunals, courts must generally hear causes in open and must permit the public admission to the court-room. As Bentham has observed,
In the darkness of secrecy sinister interest, and evil in every shape, have full swing. Only in proportion as publicity has place can any of the checks applicable to judicial injustice operate. Where there is no publicity there is no justice. Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion, and surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the Judge himself while trying under trial in the sense that the security or securities is publicity, 1911 All ER 30
The need for an open court system, in our opinion, cannot be explained better. As observed by the Supreme Court, “publicity is the very soul of justice”. The belief of an individual that some adverse publicity is likely to cause damage to the prestige of the legal system or undermine its credibility, in our view, does not sufficiently justify imposing any restrictions on the medias’ right to publish news regarding either the legal system or its proceedings. The prestige and credibility of the legal system largely depends upon the overall utility of the system to the society and the confidence which commands from the society.
4. Confidence of the society in the legal system, in our opinion, cannot be secured by imposing restrictions on the open court system. No doubt, occasionally such liberty is used or even abused to generate unpleasant or damaging statements regarding the credibility of the individuals who man the legal system. The reasons could be two (i) that there is an element of truth in the allegations of lack of integrity made against the individual members of the judiciary. The credibility of the system is neither enhanced nor strengthened by prohibiting the publicity of such material. On the other hand, the principle of the rule of law demands appropriately dealing with such incumbents of the legal system with doubtful reputation; (ii) in the alternative, such allegations of improbity against the members of the judiciary are either motivated or arise out of the ignorance of the true nature of the legal process. The existing frame work of law provides enough remedies for suitably dealing with false and motivated accusations against the individual members of the judiciary. Both the law of contempt and the law of defamation are sufficient to deal with the problem. If the allegations are made out of the ignorance of the legal process, such allegations are best ignored.
We can only remind ourselves of a profound statement made by Winston Churchill – where there is a great deal of free speech, there is always a certain amount of foolish speech Foolish speech does not really damage any system which is inherently strong and virtuous.
The writ petition is dismissed in limine.