Freedom Of Expression Is Not Society's 'Sole Aim': CJI

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New Delhi, Mar 29 (UNI) Asserting that ''freedom of expression... is not a sole aim of society,'' India's Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan today called for ''guidelines'' for journalists.

''I hope,'' Justice Balakrishnan said opening a workshop, ''that... participants will be able to come out with guidelines that would be most valuable to journalists while reporting.'' The Workshop on Reporting Court Proceedings by Media and Administration of Justice for Legal Correspondents / Journalists is being held amid growing media interest in what goes on in courts.

Indian courts are backlogged, with close to 30 million cases pending, many for years, even decades, essentially implying that rule of law, as some may understand it, must wait its turn.

To boot, while government experts advocate a three-or-four-fold increase in the number of judges-- currently numbering around 14,000-- vacancies abound even in the meagre strengths in place.

Such contradictions may ordinarily mean little to a lay citizen, but they end up having a bearing on his or her life, liberty and interests, when cases go on and on and on.

As Justice Balakrishnan put it, ''about 10 or 15 years back, the media was not paying much attention to the court proceedings though the decisions given by the courts had far reaching effect on the life, liberty and rights of the people.'' He said media's role ''has radically changed and it greatly helped the common man to understand the nature and contents of our judicial proceedings.'' He said the workshop was a unique experiment ''by which we wanted to inculcate some ideas to some of our young talented representatives of the Print and Electronic Media.'' Justice Balakrishnan recalled how the proponents of freedom of expression thought that if there is a freedom of trade in the market of ideas, truth will grapple with falsehood and truth will prevail ultimately.

''Truth was always considered to be on encounter with error and became victorious in that encounter,'' he said, adding that ''it was assumed that freedom of expression may be relied on to supply true facts to people because false facts will soon be discovered and discredited.


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