Tamil Nadu

Election Commission of India urges Madras High Court to gag media from reporting oral observations

Exercising caution: The court wanted all stakeholders to follow the norms and cooperate with the authorities. File Photo.  

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday made a desperate attempt to obtain an order from the Madras High Court to gag the media from reporting oral observations made by judges during the hearing of election-related cases. The court, however, refrained from passing any such order.

It said the sub-application filed by the ECI, against the media, was not available in the case bundle.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy also disposed of the main writ petition itself, in which the sub-application had been preferred.

The writ petition had actually been preferred by Transport Minister M.R. Vijayabhaskar, seeking certain regulations to be put in place on the day of counting of votes in Karur constituency, from where he is seeking re-election to the Assembly.

Stating that the reportage in both print and electronic media about certain oral observations made at the last hearing had caused great damage to the reputation of the ECI, senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi said the news reports had turned so serious that people started filing police complaints for registering murder and culpable homicide cases against ECI officials.

Therefore, the ECI urged the court to direct the media organisations concerned to carry a clarification, besides directing them to confine their reporting to written orders. It also wanted a direction to the police to refrain from registering First Information Reports for the offence of murder on the basis of the news reports of the oral observations attributed to the court. However, the Chief Justice said, “There’s no application we find here. You renew your application in any other matter, we’ll consider it.”

The Bench disposed of the Minister’s petition since it had already issued elaborate directions for the observance of the COVID-19 protocol during the counting of votes scheduled for Sunday while passing interim orders on a suo motu public interest litigation petition taken up by it.

At the hearing of the PIL petition too, Mr. Dwivedi had urged the court to pass certain orders restraining the media from sensationalising the hearings.

He said it was a difficult task to conduct elections amid a pandemic, and many ECI officials, including Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra, had tested positive for COVID-19. He said the reportage had undermined the ECI’s authority.

While passing interim orders in the suo motu case, the judges wrote that the “post-mortem” of the complaint of sensationalism might have to wait since the immediate concern was to fight the pandemic.

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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 2:45:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/election-commission-of-india-urges-madras-high-court-to-gag-media-from-reporting-oral-observations/article34454202.ece

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