ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gagging Justice

Keeping out media from court proceedings will deplete faith in the judiciary.

Open justice is the cornerstone of the judicial system in India. In theory, hearings in courts are open to all members of the public to witness and for members of the mass media to report from. In practice, however, the small and cramped courtrooms and the need to prevent any impediment to the proceedings, mean that entry is restricted and the general public relies on journalists to provide a fair and accurate summary of proceedings on the court. The greater the stakes in a case, the higher the interest of the public and consequently, the more pressure on the court to ensure that its conduct of a case is beyond reproach. Whatever the outcome, public confidence in the judiciary rests in the trust placed in the processthat it was fair and in accordance with the law. Unlike almost every other wing of government, the judicial process is open to the public to see and satisfy themselves of its integrity.

It is thus distressing to find that this principle is being routinely flouted by the courts themselves, with little thought and care for the consequences. Such gag orders by the court on media reporting of two high-profile cases, the criminal trial of multiple police officers for the murder of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and others, and the writ petition in the Allahabad High Court in the context of sanction for prosecution of Uttar Pradesh(UP) Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, for hate speech, are particularly worrisome. Both are high-profile cases by any definition of the term, and there is enormous public interest in the outcome.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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