Friday 14 September 2012

Note on the recent judgment of the Supreme Court of India regarding media coverage of Court Proceedings

After the judgment of the Supreme Court in Sahara India Real Estate Corp. Ltd & Ors Vs. Securities Exchange Board of India & anr delivered on 11.9.2012 there have been several critical comments about the same. In my opinion it is a balanced judgment which I agree with.

Ordinarily there should be freedom for the media to report court proceedings, because it is through the media that the people get to know about the functioning of the courts.

In feudal society the king was supreme and the people were subordinate to him. However in a modern democracy this relationship is reversed, and now the people are supreme, and all authorities, whether legislative, executive or judicial are only servants of the people. Surely the master has a right to know how his servant functions. The media is an agency of the people through which people get to know how state authorities, including the Courts, are functioning. It logically follows that ordinarily there should be freedom for the media to report court proceedings.

However, no rule can be absolute or rigid. The duty of the court is to do justice, and while ordinarily there should be freedom to the media to report court proceedings, in exceptional circumstances where the Judge feels that injustice would be done to an accused or defendant in a trial if the media reports the court proceedings, then the court has always power to prevent such reporting so that justice may be done. In fact this was the law even before the aforesaid judgment of the Supreme Court because the court has always this power, because the Judge has to do justice and prevent prejudice to a party if caused by reporting court proceedings. The Judge has the power to control and regulate proceedings in his court so that justice is done. In fact in camera proceedings in exceptional cases are sometimes resorted to.

The Supreme Court has observed in its judgment that a postponement order should be passed only in cases in which there is a substantial risk to the fairness of the trial or for appropriate administration of justice. However, the Supreme Court added that the postponement order should be for a limited period, and only in appropriate cases. I do not see what reasonable objection can there be to this view.

No right can be absolute, and the right to freedom of speech is subject to reasonable restrictions. Hence, the view taken by the Supreme Court is a correct and balanced views, and in fact this was the law even before its clarification by the Supreme Court in the aforesaid judgment.


  1. I kind of look at this judgement as in relation to the scope of section 327 of Criminal procedure code because it enunciates some what similar principle of law , except that in section 327 such restrain (under sub section 3) was in only when case fell in sub section 2 ( inquiry or trail of offence under 376 , 376 A , 376 B , 376 C , 376 D ) . I do recall looking at similar provisions in other statutes which enunciated the same principles but in different matters .

    I wonder why media in the first place made such a hue and cry about "Supreme court controlling media" when such relevant provisions were already in the statutes .

  2. Again, totally agreed with your post Justice Katju. Your post leave no room for ambiguity, on such matters.

    The big problem is: People rely on 2nd hand information and jump the guns to criticize individuals or institutions. I hope your posts educate several among us.

  3. That is really attention-grabbing, You’re an excessively skilled blogger.

  4. Fine observations
    G.Kannapiran, Chennai

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