High Court pulls up two newspapers for ‘incorrect reporting’

The Karnataka High Court has directed all newspapers and television channels “to exercise care, caution, and act with a sense of responsibility while reporting court proceedings”, while taking note of recent instances of incorrect reporting and inappropriate headlines published by two newspapers.

The news reports, which were related to court proceedings, “should not degenerate to personal levels and more so, for characterising the conduct of court proceedings. We are sure that this note of caution will be appreciated in its right spirit and implemented in action in future by the media in general,” said a Division Bench comprising Justice D.V. Shylendra Kumar and Justice H.S. Kempanna.

Suo motu action

The note of caution was issued by the Bench while dropping the criminal contempt of court proceedings initiated suo motu against the editors and publishers of Bangalore Mirror and DNA. They tendered an “unconditional apology” to the court, while admitting the “mistakes” and publishing an apology in their respective newspapers.

‘In larger interests’

The Bench observed: “Though any publication, even in a news daily, which is misleading or mischievous is not welcome nor can it be said to be healthy manner of reporting court proceedings, particularly by characterising the proceedings in a manner which becomes personal and therefore, corrective action was taken, etc., we are nevertheless of the view that the majesty of justice is sub-served in such matters and, therefore, in the larger interest of justice and to hold the dignity and decorum of court proceedings, we do ignore many such pinpricks or ups and downs in dissemination of the news, including the court proceedings, and we would accept an unconditional apology…”

The court had initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Bangalore Mirror for “distorting the proceedings and tarnishing the image of the judiciary” in its reports published in August and September on the proceedings related to adjudication of matrimonial cases by a Division Bench comprising Justice Bhakthavatsala and Justice B.S. Indrakala.

Certain remarks attributed to Justice Bhakthavatsala, in the reports published, were viewed as ‘anti-women” by certain sections of society. After a couple of days following publication of these reports, matrimonial cases were shifted to another Bench.

At this time, DNA published a report with a headline that the court treated as “derogatory of the judges conducting the proceedings”.

However, the editors and publishers of Bangalore Mirror in their respective affidavits said that the reports “were published to highlight the intricacies of matrimonial disputes and various ways in which the courts and judges help in reconciliation of warring couples… and they did not anticipate the reports being misunderstood…”

Inappropriate headlines’

On behalf of DNA, it was submitted to the court that the “choice of words used in the headline was inappropriate”, while making it clear that it had no intention of tarnishing the image of the judiciary.

In another case, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice B.V. Nagarathna said that “care should be taken in reporting matters pending in courts”, while noticing a report published in Bangalore Mirror in which it “incorrectly” stated that contempt notices were “re-issued” to certain persons in a case pertaining to violation of court’s prohibition on carrying out construction at night.

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