Supreme Court refuses to gag media on High Court observations

The Asian Age.  | Parmod Kumar

India, All India

The observation by the court came following an appeal by the EC that complained about the harsh observations by the Madras high court

The EC said it was castigated without any evidence by the Madras high court over political rallies during the recent Assembly elections. — PTI file photo

New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Monday that the media cannot be restrained from reporting oral observations made by judges in the course of hearing of matters as they were also of “public interest”.

A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said that what judges observe in the course of hearings of matters was in the public interest and the media should be able to report everything to create accountability.

The court’s observation that the media can’t be stopped from reporting oral
observations by judges came on an appeal by the Election Commission that complained about the harsh observations by the Madras high court against it in a matter related to the recent Assembly elections. The EC said it was “castigated” without any evidence by the Madras high court over political rallies during the recent Assembly elections.

Observing that they can’t tell high court judges to confine themselves only to the pleadings, the Supreme Court said: “They (high court judges) are also humans and they are also stressed. Take this in the correct spirit. We don’t want to demoralise our high courts, they are vital pillars of our democracy. Things are often said in an open dialogue between the Bar and bench.”

The Election Commission was aggrieved over the Madras high court’s April 26 observation that the EC should be charged with murder for its failure to curb the violation of Covid-19 protocols during election rallies.

The top court said the strong observation by the high court needed to be taken in the right spirit as they are rooted in for certain lapses during electioneering. “The high court judges are doing tremendous work, burning the midnight oil, they are overburdened. They are seeing what’s happening on the ground during this time of Covid-19. It is bound to affect your psyche.”

Making it clear not everything said by High Court can be made a cause of grievance, the court said that often things are said on the basis of past experience or after a series of orders not being complied with.

“Sometimes we are harsh because we want to see something done in the
larger public interest. After a series of orders, the high court may be anguished. Look at Gujarat, 18 people died due to a fire in a Covid ward and this in spite of a series of orders” on obtaining no-objection certificates from the fire department, the court said, pointing to the things that happen on the ground despite high court orders.