Chief Justice voices concern on "Trial by Media"

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Mumbai, Oct 19 (UNI) The Media should take utmost care not to infringe on the rights and liberties of individuals, while covering criminal cases, Chief Justice of India, K G Balakrishnan said here today.

Speaking at the inauguration of a one-day regional workshop on ''Reporting of Court Proceedings by media and administration of justice'' at the Bombay High Court, the Chief Justice said mediapersons covering court proceedings require guidance on what should be or should not be reported.

He said the right of the media to report important court processes and proceedings emanates from the right of the citizens to know, to educate and to be educated about the truth. ''However, along with this right also comes a great sense of duty, a duty that's implied by the Constitution. It is a duty to report fairly, objectively and accurately. Any digression from this duty attracts restrictions and limitations that protect the rights of individuals.

This balance of rights and duties is implicit in the Constitution itself,'' he observed.

The Chief Justice voiced his concern over the tendency of newspapers and news channels to give unverified accounts, stating that it was a danger to a free, fair and constitutional judicial process. The method of trial by media by which it conveys public opinion in favour of one side or the other has become increasingly frequent in recent times, particularly in criminal matters, where the accused is perceived guilty, he said.

''This often leads to societal outrage before the person has even begun his trial in the court of law'', he said.

Praising journalism as a profession, Chief Justice Balakrishnan said ''Journalists are vigilant watchdogs of civil liberties, and are required to make critical scrutiny and careful questioning of various aspects of our daily life, in order to generate healthy public debates that would help augment the way we perceive existence in society today.'' In this endeavour, the Constitution guarantees the Freedom of Speech and expression to every individual, and especially the media, both print and electronic, he said.

Delivering the welcome address, Chief Justice of Bombay High Court, Sawtantra Kumar said this workshop will help mediapersons, who have come from various parts of the country, to know how to accurately report court matters.

On the ocassion, Member of Parliament and senior Supreme court advocate, Ravishankar Prasad said media should not be allowed to be used as a platform to create problems and fear in people's mind.

He criticised the manner in which TV channels report blast cases and show bodies and other victims.

Parvin H Parekh, president Supreme Court Bar Association, talking on ''Trial by Media'' said he didn't want media to damage people's lives and reputation with irresponsible court reporting, which could also impede or prejudice the administration of justice.

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