The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the exercise undertaken by it for framing guidelines for reporting court proceedings was aimed at making the press know its “lakshman rekha” and not intended for taking punitive action against scribes.
“Whatever efforts we are making, please don't interpret it as being intended for punishing or taking punitive action. We only want the press to know the ‘lakshman rekha' for them.
“We want them to know what points have to be kept in mind,” a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice S. H. Kapadia said.
The Bench said the media should understand that the guidelines will have nothing to do with the punishment part. An exercise has been undertaken to make them know that they cannot go beyond a “particular limit.”
“This is the area we are exploring, and this court has to lay down the contours of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Please help us,” the Bench, also comprising justices D. K. Jain, S. S. Nijjar, Ranjana Prakash Desai, and J. S. Khehar, said.
The remarks were made by the Bench when advocate Ashok Arora, former Secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association, was making a submission against the endeavour to frame any guidelines for media.
Justice, not just law
Instead, Mr. Arora, who was appearing for a lawyers' association, suggested that “knowledge of law alone isn't sufficient for administration of justice.”
He stretched his submission by saying that spiritual training and training of mind will help the judges, even if a spin is given by media on court proceedings.
While Mr. Arora was making the submissions, the Bench had said “spin given to statements made in the courts” often troubles them.
The advocate, who praised the role of the media in reporting several high-profile cases, including those involving former Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao and the JMM bribery case, said there was nothing wrong in the media recording the evidence of witnesses during the trial.
He also said the publication of the statement of witnesses recorded by probe agencies under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure during the investigation of the case also wasn't an offence punishable under the statute. He said the monitoring of the investigation of a case by courts comes to an end at a particular stage, but there was no restriction for the media in monitoring the development of a particular incident and its publication.
Referring to the submissions made by some other advocates, Mr. Arora said any attempt to frame guidelines would be like curtailing the freedom of the press.
He said any restriction on the press would disturb the harmony between different sections of society, and went ahead to say that even the advocates haven't been carrying out their fundamental duties.