The Telegraph
Sunday , June 22 , 2014
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Media must practise self-restraint, say jurists

Cuttack, June 21: Eminent jurists have underscored the need for restraint in expressing views in the press on cases under investigation or trial and “respect of self-regulation by the media” at a seminar held here today.

They said unrestrained reporting on sub-judice matters (matters pending in court) was a major concern as it was resulting in media trials and in many cases demolishing the reputation of the people with impunity, thereby jeopardising their right to fair trial.

The Indian Law Institute, in collaboration with Viswanath Pasayat Birth Centenary Committee, organised a seminar on the need for restraint in expressing views in media relating to sub-judice matters at Sarala Bhavan here today. The seminar was organised in memory of the late Biswanath Pasayat, a noted freedom fighter and lawyer. He is also the father of former Supreme Court judge Justice Arijit Pasayat.

Supreme Court judge Justice B.S. Chauhan, who inaugurated the seminar, said: “Any prejudging of issues whether of fact or of law in pending proceedings, is in principle an interference with the administration of justice.”

“With the lines between generating public opinion and on a matter of public importance and prejudicing an ongoing court proceedings getting blurred by overzealous media, it is high time that media undertakes mature and responsible reporting with self regulation,” Justice Chauhan said.

He stressed the need for strict observance of the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and the News Broadcasting Standards Regulations framed by the Press Council of India and the News Broadcasters’ Association.

Taking part in the seminar, Chief Justice of Bhutan Sonam Tobgye called for balancing freedom of press and popular justice and humanising the principle of sub-judice “to instil confidence” in the people and “uphold justice”.

He said: “The expression of views in the media without any restraint relating to sub-judice matters would amount to trial by public.”

The Chief Justice of Bhutan was of the view that “the judiciary should step in if the media misuse the freedom that is given to them”. He said: “However, the rule of sub-judice is a powerful weapon for a judge. It must be balanced with the doctrine of fair comment.” Tobgye further said: “Objective criticism is constructive and subjective criticism is destructive.” He was of the opinion that “freedom is not a monopoly of an institution — freedom is the check and balance, a fellow pilgrim of truth. Freedom must come with responsibility”.