A judicial system entails judges who interpret and apply the law to resolve a dispute and thus administer justice. This procedure takes into account the rules that govern the roles of judges in the courtroom. Fairness and consistency must be ensured when establishing these rules in order to facilitate the application of fundamental justice. Here comes the role of media in the picture.
The legislative, executive, and judiciary are the other three limbs of a democratic system, with the media being the fourth. The freedom of the press is an important component of freedom of expression and a necessary part of a democratic system. The Indian Constitution guarantees this freedom as a Fundamental Right.
Individual rights must be respected by the media, which must also function within the context of legal principles and regulations. These principles/statutes are intended to serve as minimal requirements, not as a substitute for higher levels of protection for freedom of expression.
Media reports the facts and proceedings of a courtroom. It also shares people’s voices about a judgement. Here’s more about the roles and responsibilities of media in the judiciary.
Regulations by the Press Council of India on Media Reporting in Judicial Proceedings
Below are the principles for media persons while dealing with judiciary matters:
When Criticising a Judicial Act, Use Caution
1. A newspaper may report on pending judicial proceedings in a fair, truthful, and reasonable manner unless the court sits “in camera” or directs otherwise. It will not, however, publish anything:
- which has the direct and immediate effect of blocking, hindering, or significantly prejudicing the proper administration of justice; or
- is in the manner of a continuing commentary or debate, or chronicles the paper’s own conclusions, conjectures, reflections, or remarks on matters, which may amount to an abrogation of the court’s responsibilities to the newspaper, and which is sub judice (under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere); or
- concerning the personal character of the defendant facing an allegation of committing a crime.
2. When the accused is detained and charged, and the court takes control of the case, the newspaper should not reveal, comment on, or assess evidence acquired as a consequence of investigative journalism. Nor should they expose, remark upon, or analyse a confession supposedly made by the defendant.
3. While journalists may make a valid criticism of judicial conduct or a court’s judgement for the public good in the public interest, they may not cast slanderous aspersions (an attack on the reputation or integrity of someone or something) on, infer inappropriate intentions, or personal bias to the judge. They also must not embarrass the court or the judiciary as a whole or make personal accusations of incompetence or lack of credibility against a judge.
4. Even if such criticism does not legally amount to criminal contempt of court, the newspaper should avoid unfair and inappropriate criticism that, by insinuation, attaches to a judge extraneous consideration for doing an act in the course of their judicial powers.
Reporting Proceeding Related News
Before publishing the proceedings of the court, its genuineness should be examined by the reporter and editor from different reliable sources so that the person circulating incorrect information may be held liable.
Effects of Media on Judiciary
There isn’t much room for testing and trial and error when every piece of information transmitted and published by a media outlet has the capacity to influence a judge’s decision.
As a result, any publication that is detrimental in nature and has the potential to influence the thinking of a sitting judge must be obstructed for the sake of the administration of justice.
Journalism on pending cases and criticism of the judiciary’s administration of justice frequently crosses the line into contempt of court.
The frequent scrutiny and updates on a pending case create a hazy environment, putting the case in jeopardy. When asked about the controversial documentary on the Nirbhaya gang rape case, the Delhi High Court stated that “media tries to influence judges by inadvertently exerting a strain.”
Recent Developments Related to Telecast of Court-Room Proceedings
During the COVID pandemic, when the physical hearings were stopped, as an alternative, all the High Courts and the Supreme Court started virtual hearings.
This has struck a remarkable achievement of the live streaming of court proceedings on YouTube. As a result, a common person had access to the video on YouTube, which created further transparency in the judiciary. With this, the parties were able to view their respective cases as to how the same is getting argued in the court by their respective counsels.
Not only this, the law students benefitted a lot, and it has also helped significantly in legal research.
The media exerts great power and can subtly influence a case. A question arises as to whether the media has become the people’s voice or the noise that inadvertently influences the judicial officer presiding over a case that has been publicly tried prior to its completion in court through active journalism.
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