Take Media Reports in the Right Spirit as a Bitter Pill, Supreme Court tells Election Commission
The Supreme Court on Monday told the Election Commission of India (ECI) to take media reports based on oral observation of courts as 'a bitter pill in the right spirit'. Last week, the Madras High Court had remarked that ECI was 'singularly responsible for COVID second wave' and its officers should probably be booked for murder.
Hearing a plea filed by the Election Commission against oral observations made by the Madras High Court last week, the bench of justice DY Chandrachud and justice MR Shah, told senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the ECI, that sometimes judges make observations in the larger public interest, says a report from LiveLaw.
The bench reserved its order on the petition filed by Commission.
"You (EC) are the only institution responsible for the situation we are in today and you have been singularly lacking in any kind of exercise of authority. You have not taken measures against political parties holding rallies despite the court saying 'Maintain Covid protocol, maintain Covid protocol'," the bench of chief justice Sanjib Banerjee and justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy from Madras HC had said.
Hearing a plea moved by Tamil Nadu state transport minister MR Vijayabhaskar, the bench had said, "Were you on another planet when political rallies were being held? Despite repeated orders of this court going on like a broken record at the foot of at least every election petition entertained that COVID protocol ought to be maintained during the campaign time the significance of adhering to such protocol may have been lost on the Election Commission, going by the puerile silence on the part of the Commission as campaigns and rallies were conducted without distancing norms being maintained and in wanton disregard of the other items of the protocol."
Raising a strong objection to oral remarks made by the HC, the Election Commission filed a petition in the apex court. During the hearing, the Supreme Court made pertinent oral observations on the role of the media and judicial accountability, says a report from Bar & Bench.
Responding to the ECI's prayer to restrain the media from reporting on oral observations made in court, justice Chandrachud says, "ECI is a seasoned constitutional body, which has been entrusted with functions of conducting the elections. In today’s times, we cannot say that media will not report the discussions that take place in court."
"The discussions that take place are of importance...and are in the public interest. It’s not a monologue that one person will speak and then judges will speak. We have an Indian pattern of arguments in Court...There is an aspect of the application of mind. First prayer of ‘don't report what is said in court’ was farfetched," justice Chandrachud says.
Quoting the bench, the report says, "The media should be able to report everything also to create accountability. Often the dialogue in court is to create an umbrella of discussion. High Courts are not district courts but have power under Article 226."
Justice Chandrachud pointed out, "Now you have electronic and social media. We are also conscious how we conduct ourselves. I am sure what are we saying is being reported now. But to contain what we want to ask or say in court just because of this, will not do justice to the judicial process."
Referring to the comments made by Madras HC, justice Shah urged the Election Commission to take it in the right spirit. He says, "High Court was considering orders and noted that orders were not followed. It was not impromptu. What is said is said. Take it in the right spirit."