Guidelines on media would amount to judicial over-reach, SC told

Senior counsel Fali Nariman told the constitution bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice D.K. Jain, Justice S.S. Nijjar, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice J.S. Khehar that the court could at best go for normative guidelines instead of mandatory guidelines as these would infringe upon the essential freedom of press.

The court was told that framing of guidelines would not only amount to judicial over-reach but also open the flood gates and add to problems instead of easing them.

As Nariman, appearing for Sahara India Real Estate Corp, and senior counsel Soli Sorabjee, an amicus curiae, opposed the framing of any guidelines, Chief Justice Kapadia asked if the court could not frame any guidelines to regulate media reporting in sub-judice matters.

The chief justice asked what could be the objection if there were principles available in other judgments and the same were spelt out by them. They could be called guidelines, regulations or principles.

When Justice Jain wanted to know if the apex court could not frame the guidelines then which institution could do so Nariman told the court that "you can't do that".

The constitution bench was hearing an application by the Sahara on its grievance against a news channel reporting its proposal made to the stock market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), on securing the money it had raised from the market.

The court said that it would frame guidelines for reporting of sub-judice matters.

The constitution bench March 27, commenced the hearing on the application of Sahara.

Concluding the arguments on the 17th hearing in the matter, amicus curiae K.K. Venugopal told the court that there should be a bar on journalists entering a court and reporting its proceedings without being accredited.

The accreditation of the apex court reporters be made subject to adherence to the guidelines. He said that such an arrangement would be in the interest of the administration of justice, as well as parties and witnesses in the court. He told the court that these guidelines would also be in the interest of media.

As Venugopal sought to make accreditation subject to adherence of guidelines, the court asked him what about the reporting of proceedings in trial court. At this amicus curiae said that subordinate courts could frame their own rules for coverage of proceedings.

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