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Know where 'Lakshman Rekha' begins, SC tells media

The apex court 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 said: "We wanted to make media aware. They should know where Lakshman Rekha begins."

The court said the guidelines sought to be put in place by it on media reporting of sub-judice matter were being "misconstrued".

The judges said all that they were striving for was to balance the right of free speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution and the accused's right to free and fair trial under Article 21.

The court was hearing an application by the Sahara India Real Estate Corp voicing its grievance over a news channel reporting its proposal made to the Securities and Exchange Board of India on securing the money it mopped up from the market.

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

The judges also made it clear that they were not for invoking the punishment part under the contempt of court but for the prevention of reporting that affected the free and fair administration of justice.

"Please don't go into the punishment part of the contempt. Please see the prevention," the court said.

Senior counsel Rajiv Dhawan, appearing for the Editors' Guild of India, said: "I no longer wish to address this court. It does not have the jurisdiction to hear the case. There is no list before the court. This has become a case of advisory jurisdiction."

Amicus curiae T.R. Andhyaurjina told the court that notwithstanding the important role that media played, it did not have an "unfettered right" to say or write anything it wanted.

However, he clarified that at the same time there can't be any "trampling" of the media.

Advocating a balancing act, Andhyaurjina said that the judiciary had a right to direct the media to act in a way.

The amicus curiae said that the court had the reserve of power to either ban or postpone certain publication. "Courts cannot be mute spectator," he told the court.

Appearing for Supreme Court advocates Association, counsel Ashok Arora told the court that lawyers should limit themselves to their practice instead of telling the media how should they go about their work.

Let lawyers do their duty and let media do its duty, he said.

Addressing the plea that media reporting of sub-judice matter had the potential of influencing the court proceedings, Arora told the court that the knowledge of law alone was not enough. It has to be combined with the mental training of the people pursuing the legal profession.
 

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