Distorted reporting of proceedings tends to lower dignity of judiciary, says Bench

The Supreme Court on Thursday initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against The Indian Express and The Pioneer for distorting court proceedings.

A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya issued notice to the two newspapers asking them to show cause by October 30 why proceedings should not be initiated against them under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

The Bench, after hearing Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati and senior counsel P.P. Rao, who assisted the court as amicus curiae, in its order, said: “This is with reference to the news published on the front page of The Indian Express dated September 2 titled ‘Appointing Judges to Tribunal raises questions of integrity, says SC Bench’ with photographs of two sitting judges, and another news item published in The Pioneer (New Delhi) dated September 20 with the headline ‘SC surprised at CJI’s choice for green body’.”

The Bench said: “The contents of the news item published in The Indian Express and the headline of the [other] newspaper suggest that the Bench had made observations on the recommendation made by the Chief Justice for appointment of Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal, a post which is lying vacant, and about the integrity of the judges appointed to the Tribunals [which] are not only misleading but are patently false. The court had only made [an] observation about non-availability of facilities to the members of the Tribunals and hinted that this results in compromising with institutional integrity because the Judges are forced to go to the Executive and ask for various amenities like accommodation, medical facilities and leave travel concession.”

The Bench said: “There was absolutely no reference to the proposed appointment of Justice Swatanter Kumar as Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal.” In fact, the issue was not even mentioned by either party.

“Likewise, there was no reference by the Additional Solicitor-General [A.S. Chandhiok] to the so-called representation made by the National Human Rights Commission headed by former Chief Justice of India Shri Justice K.G. Balakrishnan in respect of Faridkot House where the National Human Rights Commission is presently working.”

The Bench said: “What he mentioned was that a portion of Faridkot House which was ordered to be allotted to the National Green Tribunal was earlier allotted to the Press Council of India and the Court had observed that such allotment ought to be cancelled despite representation by any functionary and the premises be allotted to the National Green Tribunal.”

It said: “The distorted reporting of the court proceedings has the tendency of lowering the dignity of the institution and brings the entire institution of judiciary to ridicule in the eyes of the public and also shakes the people’s confidence in the independence and integrity of the institution. Let notice, returnable on October 30, be issued to Shri Utkarsh Anand, correspondent of The Indian Express who is cited as the author of the news published, as also the publisher of the Indian Express Limited and to the publisher of The Pioneer (New Delhi)...’’

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