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'Incapable of Distinguishing Between Right and Wrong': CJI Criticises Media 'Kangaroo Courts'

'Ill-informed and agenda driven debates on issues involving justice delivery are proving to be detrimental to the health of democracy.'

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New Delhi: Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana has come down heavily on what he said were “ill-informed and agenda driven” debates on news outlets, noting that of late, the media had been running ‘kangaroo courts.’

Speaking at public lecture at the National University of Study and Research in Law at Ranchi, CJI Ramana said that electronic media has “zero accountability,” according to LiveLaw.

The CJI said that “doing justice” was no easy responsibility and is growing increasingly challenging.

“At times, there are also concerted campaigns in media, particularly on social media against judges,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Justice J.B. Pardiwala, one of the judges in the Supreme Court bench which had been critical of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nupur Sharma’s anti-Islam comments, had struck a similar note. Justice Pardiwala had said that personal attacks on judges makes them consider what the media thinks more than what the law thinks.

Former Supreme Court judge, Justice Deepak Gupta had agreed to Justice Pardiwala’s comments, noting that media trials of judges was a “dangerous trend”.

The CJI spoke of the impact of alleged media trials on the judiciary.

“Another aspect which affects the fair functioning and independence of judiciary is the rising number of media trials. New media tools have enormous amplifying ability but appear to be incapable of distinguishing between the right and the wrong, the good and the bad and the real and the fake. Media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases,” he said.

Also read: Where Does Press Freedom End and Trial by Media Begin?

Stating that media has overstepped its responsibility, he accused sections of it of weakening democracy.

“Of late, we see the media running kangaroo courts, at times on issues even experienced judges find difficult to decide. Ill-informed and agenda driven debates on issues involving justice delivery are proving to be detrimental to the health of democracy. Biased views being propagated by media are affecting the people, weakening democracy, and harming the system. In this process, justice delivery gets adversely affected. By overstepping and breaching your responsibility, you are taking our democracy two steps backwards,” he said.

Like Justice Pardiwala, CJI Ramana too asked for media to self-regulate.

“I urge upon the media, particularly the electronic and social media, to behave responsibly. You are as important a stakeholder as we are. Please use the power of your voice to educate the people and to energise the nation in our collective endeavour to build a progressive, prosperous, and peaceful India,” he said.

The transcript of the relevant section of the CJI’s speech has been published by LiveLaw here.