Written by: Ayushi Arya (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
The Election Commission of India (ECI) approached the Madras High Court to obtain an order from the Court to block the Media from reporting oral comments made by the judges during the hearing of election-related cases.
The petition filed on April 6 in Madras High Court by the Transport Minister of Tamil Nadu, M.R. Vijayabaskar, in order for taking effecting steps and proper arrangements to enforce COVID protocols during the vote counting at Karur constituency.
The Madras High Court while hearing the plea on the 26th April said, “The EC should be put up on murder charges“. The bench had orally remarked that the EC was only responsible for the second wave of COVID-19.
The bench of Chief Justice Sanjiv Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy even threatened to stop the counting of assembly poll votes, if they don’t get a blueprint on how proper maintenance of COVID protocol will be maintained on counting day. However, the order sheet did not record these oral comments made by the bench.
The ECI claimed that the report in both print and electronic media about oral comment made at the last hearing had caused huge damage to the reputation of ECI. The news report had become so serious that public started complaining and registering F.I.R against ECI for murder and culpable homicide.
Therefore, in the appeal, prayer has been made by the ECI in the court to manage the media organizations concerned to carry a clarification, apart from managing them to confine their reporting to written orders. ECI also wanted a direction to the police to avoid from registering F.I.R for the offence of murder on the basis of the news reports.
The court refused to entertain this plea in the 30th April order. The Chief Justice of Madras High court said, “There is no application we find here. You renew your application in any other matter, we’ll consider it”.
The Election Commission then appealed in Supreme Court against the order of Madras High Court. The counsel on the behalf of the EC pleaded the court to issue directions for media reporting on oral comments made by the courts, and for drawing the attention to the fact that the conducting elections during the pandemic was really a difficult job.
On 3rd May, the Supreme Court bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and M.R. Shah J. heard the appeal of Election Commission of India against the Madras High Court remarks that the ECI was “singularly responsible for COVID second wave that its officers “should be put up on Murder Charges”. And, stopping media from making sensational news on oral comments of bench.
The bench while hearing the plea said that media cannot be stopped from reporting oral observations made by judges, the arguments made in a court hearing are of interest and concern for the public. The court mentioned that media is the “watch dog” of judicial process. The reporting by the media gives confidence to the public. News report is necessary to assuage concerns of citizens and put confidence in them.
Justice Chandrachud said that in India, judicial proceeding is not in the nature of a tedious speech where one lawyer speaks and then other lawyer speaks and then the judges asks questions and closes the matter.