INS opposes fresh norms on court reporting

New Delhi: The Indian Newspapers
Society (INS) Wednesday told the Supreme Court that there was no need
for any “further or fresh guidelines” on regulating media reporting on
sub-judice matters and any violation of an accused’s right to free and
fair trial by reporting could be addressed through the existing laws.


“There
may not be a need for any further or fresh guidelines,” senior counsel
Parag Tripathi, appearing for the INS, told the apex court constitution
bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice D.K. Jain, Justice S.S.
Nijjar, Justice R.P. Desai and Justice J.S. Khehar.


Tripathi told the judges that the issue before the court involved four different and distinct rights.

These
righs involved inter-play of the fundamental requirement of fair trial,
the right of an accused to a fair trial, the citizens’ right to know at
large and the freedom of speech, including the freedom of press under
Article 19(1)(a).


Even though the right to free speech and
expression were not absolute under all circumstances, Tripathi told the
court that in the “trade-off” between the right to speech and expression
and that of fair trial, the former would not be abridged.


“As
far as the argument on economic loss or protection of economic interest
of a party is concerned, it may be pointed out that in India, protection
of economic rights is not a part of fundamental rights with the right
of property having been expressly withdrawn from the ambit of Article
19(1),” Tripathi told the constitution bench.


Earlier concluding
his arguments on behalf of the Broadcast Editors’ Association, senior
counsel Ram Jethmalani said “this court is well advised not to frame
guidelines” for regulating media reporting of the sub-judice matter.


Jethmalani
said this in response to a query whether any guidelines could be framed
by the court. He said that even the apex court had favoured
self-regulatory mechanism for the professional bodies.


He told
the court that the only remedy available in the event of derailment of
justice on account of wrong media reporting or trial by media was taking
recourse to the contempt of court route.


He referred to a plea
by murder convict Manu Sharma, punished in the 1999 Delhi ramp model
Jessica Lall’s murder, that it was the hype by media that resulted in
the breach of free and fair trial in his case.


Chief Justice
Kapadia asked “is the court in a case, as brought by you, not justified
in passing deferment order to achieve the ends of justice and free and
fair trial”.


As he wanted to know if there was no other way than
to take recourse to contempt of court to punish them, Jethmalani said
“enforce the law”.


Appearing for Vodafone, senior counsel Harish
Salve said that he favoured enunciation of principles that would bring
clarity on law in a very important area concerning Article 21 and
Article 19(1)(a) of constitution. This he said would serve a great
public purpose.


While batting for laying down the principles,
Salve said: “I am reasonably certain that a responsible media will take
on board what the court will say.”


“Why should we feel that
media will defy what the court lays down. When it comes to
interpretation of law, this court had the last word. You like it or not
you have to live with it. This is the majesty of the court,” he said.


The
court was hearing an application by Sahara India Real Estate Corp
voicing its grievance over a news channel reporting its proposal made to
the Securities and Exchange Board of India on securing the money it
mopped up from the market.


The court earlier said that it would frame guidelines for reporting on sub-judice matters.

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