Saturday, 12 July 2014

There's nothing more sanctimonious in any democracy than the freedom of speech and expression. But we must understand that like any other freedom, it too is not absolute and it is subject to reasonable regulations and restrictions. When liberty is accorded to subjects of a nation, it is never purported while so according, that the said liberty will be wildly asserted in disregard to other conflicting freedoms. I'll elucidate this by saying that if each pedestrian begins to claim that "since I've the liberty to walk, nothing can stop me", there will be an endless traffic jam. Similarly while exercising our right to freedom of expression and speech, we have to be aware, only ofcourse, if we are claiming to be law abiding citizens, whether such exercise does in any manner sabotage sacred principles of governance and rule of law. The news channels appear to be mostly forgetful of this caution. There is this non stop rant about matters which are gravely connected to under trial issues. It is high time to apprise everyone about the dangers of prejudice and an unwarranted barrage of speculations and opinions about a particular issue, especially those which are sub judice.... 

I'm aware of that philosophy too and I support the freedom of press. But unfortunately Pandit Nehru did not foresee the danger involved in the ‘administration of justice’ which is the very essence of the natural justice and the rule of law or rather he would not have expected the press to get involved into something which is beyond its limit and ethics too. I read a beautiful article on this topic the other day where the author has written on how the media has now reincarnated itself into a ‘public court’ (Janta Adalat), and thereby latently interfering with court proceedings. It completely overlooks the vital gap between an accused and a convict keeping at stake the golden principles of ‘presumption of innocence until proven guilty’ and ‘guilt beyond reasonable doubt’. Now, what we observe is media trial where the media itself does a separate investigation, builds a public opinion against the accused even before the court takes cognizance of the case. By this way, it prejudices the public and sometimes even judges and as a result the accused, that should be assumed innocent, is presumed as a criminal leaving all his rights and liberty unredressed. If excessive publicity in the media about a suspect or an accused before trial prejudices a fair trial or or results in characterizing him as a person who had indeed committed the crime, it amounts to undue interference with the “administration of justice”, calling for proceedings for contempt of court against the media. Unfortunately, rules designed to regulate journalistic conduct are inadequate to prevent the encroachment of civil rights. What is even more outrageous is that sometimes news channels invite the lawyers who represent these accused persons and grill them on questions pertaining to their professional ethics as to how could they take up the case of such a  person, who according to the media is already guilty. They even induce an analysis of the evidence available against that accused, an act which is grossly unwarranted from the media.

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