Don’t mistake it for weakness if judges don’t react immediately: CJI on ‘campaigns’ in media against them

RANCHI, 23 Jul: Lambasting the “concerted campaigns” in the media, particularly on social media, against judges, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said on Saturday that judges may not react immediately but it should not be mistaken for weakness or helplessness.

Addressing an event here, CJI Ramana also came down heavily on the media for running “agenda-driven debates and kangaroo courts” that are detrimental to the health of the democracy, and said that “media trials affect the fair functioning and independence of the judiciary.”

Due to “frequent transgressions and consequent social unrest,” there is a growing demand for stricter media regulations and accountability, but the media should not overstep and invite interference, either from the government or from the courts, the CJI said.

The CJI was delivering the inaugural lecture instituted in memory of Justice Satya Brata Sinha here.

The remarks by the CJI, who had recently spoken out against the targeting of judges on social media, come against the backdrop of apex court judges facing shrill criticism from a section in recent times over their orders, including in the case of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who is accused of hurting religious sentiments.

He also expressed concern over the number of physical attacks on judges, and lamented that they are not provided any security cover once they retire, unlike politicians and other public representatives.

“Media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases. Of late, we see the media running kangaroo courts at times on issues even experienced judges find difficult to decide. Ill-informed and agenda-driven debates on issues involving justice delivery are proving to be detrimental to the health of democracy,” he said.

“Biased views being propagated by media are affecting the people, weakening democracy, and harming the system. In this process, justice delivery gets adversely affected. By overstepping and breaching your responsibility, you are taking our democracy two steps backward,” he added.

Print media still has a certain degree of accountability, he said, adding that electronic media has zero accountability as “what it shows vanishes into thin air.”

At times, there are concerted campaigns in media, particularly on social media, against judges, he said.

Owing to the frequent transgressions and consequent social unrest, there is a growing demand for stricter media regulations and accountability, CJI Ramana said.

“In fact, looking at recent trends, it is best for the media to self-regulate and measure their words. You should not overstep and invite interference, either from the government or from the courts. Judges may not react immediately. Please don’t mistake it to be a weakness or helplessness,” he said.

When liberties are exercised responsibly, within their domains, there will be no necessity of placing reasonable or proportionate external restrictions, the CJI said.

Asking the media, particularly the electronic and social media, to “behave responsibly,” CJI Ramana said, “The power should be used to educate the people and energise the nation in a collective endeavour to build a progressive, prosperous and peaceful India.”

He also emphasised the need to strengthen the judiciary, saying that an increasing number of physical attacks on judges are being witnessed.

“Can you imagine, a judge who has served on the bench for decades, putting hardened criminals behind the bar, once he retires, loses all the protection that came with the tenure? Judges have to live in the same society as the people that they have convicted, without any security or assurance of safety,” he noted.

“Politicians, bureaucrats, police officers and other public representatives are often provided with security even after their retirement, owing to the sensitiveness of their jobs. Ironically, judges are not extended similar protection,” he said.

CJI Ramana said that one of the biggest challenges before the judiciary at present is prioritising the matters for adjudication as judges cannot turn a blind eye to social realities.

“I shall not fail to place on record my worries about the future of judiciary in this country. The burden on an already fragile judicial infrastructure is increasing by the day.

“There have been a few knee-jerk reactions in augmenting infrastructure. However, I haven’t heard of any concrete plan to equip the judiciary to meet the challenges of the foreseeable future, leave alone a long-term vision for the century and ahead,” he said.

“It is only with the coordinated efforts by the judiciary and the executive that this alarming issue of infrastructure can be addressed,” he said. (PTI)