New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the electronic media and websites not to feel like the "Pope sitting in the Pulpit” and telecast or write anything they imagine containing baseless insinuations.
A visibly upset Chief Justice Dipak Misra, heading a three-judge bench said journalism has descended into a scenario where the media thinks they are "sitting on some pulpit" and can write anything they imagine about anyone. That is not real journalism but irresponsible reporting. (Television) Journalists behave as if they have turned "Popes or guardians overnight. There are limits."
The Bench including Justices AM Kanwilkar and DY Chandrachud was hearing an appeal filed by a web portal against a Gujarat High Court order rejecting relief in the criminal defamation complaint filed by Jay Shah, son of BJP President Amit Shah.
It asked the trial court not to proceed with the trial till April 12.
After hearing senior counsel Kapil Sibal and Raju Ramachandran for the portal and its journalists and senior counsel Neeraj Kishan Kaul for Jay Shah, the CJI said “I don't want to name any particular electronic media, but the way things have been vilified, it is not responsible journalism.”
The CJI observed, “The electronic media and websites require to be extremely careful. However, question of gagging the media does not come at all. I have myself rebuffed all attempts to gag the media, but we do expect media, especially electronic media, to become more responsible. They cannot publish anything only because they have some websites."
CJI Misra added "it is not the culture of journalism to write anything and get away with it only because it is published on a website. Are they free to write anything? What they write sometimes is sheer contempt of court. You cannot reproduce anything that comes to your heart and mind. There has to be some basis. You cannot nurture, construct, construe, and create anything. That's not culture of journalism."
The bench further said: "We don't want to name channels but some people think they are Pope sitting in a Pulpit and can pass judgment or deliver a sermon. That is not culture of journalism. Everyone should assume his or her duty to assist the law and feel some kind of responsibility.”
The CJI, however, made it clear that his remarks were of a general nature and not connected to the particular case being heard. The oral observations from the Chief Justice began when senior advocate Kapil Sibal said defamation proceedings and gag orders cannot be used to "throttle journalism" To this, Chief Justice asked whether Sibal was contending whether "they (journalists) can write whatever they want?" Sometimes whatever they write amounts to sheer contempt of court."