Monday, August 6, 2007

A very disturbing judgement from the Supreme Court

An odd and prima facie, a very disturbing judgment from the Supreme Court-

Not satisfied with explanation given by Zee TV and its reporter Vijay Shekhar for carrying out a sting operation allegedly showing corruption in lower judiciary, the the Supreme Court on Thursday asked them to tender an “unconditional apology” to avoid any criminal action.

The channel had carried a sting operation “Cash for warrant scam” in 2004. It showed three advocates of Ahmedabad securing bailable warrants—on fictitious complaint and for monetary considerations—against former President A P J Abdul Kalam, former Chief Justice of India V N Khare, apex court judge Justice B P Singh and senior counsel the late R K Jain.

“He has committed a serious offence,” the CJI said and refused to acknowledge that corruption existed in subordinate judiciary. “The perception of judiciary to this gentleman is absolutely wrong,” he said, refusing to accept the “intention” of the journalist was not to bring disrepute to the system.

The court noted that all material facts, including addresses of persons against whom warrants were issued, were suppressed. “You have misled the magistrate, you have misled the lawyers,” the court said.

However senior advocate Arun Jaitley, who appeared for the reporter, argued it should be the intention behind the act of the media that should be considered rather than the act. “If the reporter who tried to expose whatever little vulnerability exist in the system is taken to task, it would be a case of extreme positioning, which in today’s times is uncalled for,” Jaitely said.

Some bigwigs of the media, the defenders of freedoms(especially their own) seem to be skirting the issue.

Vir Sanghvi-
On Thursday, the Supreme Court finally took a stand on the contentious and controversial issue of television sting operations. The judges asked for an unconditional apology from a Zee News reporter who had conducted a sting operation seeking to reveal corruption in the lower judiciary. Asked the Chief Justice of India, “What public good has the reporter done? Prime facie, he has committed a serious crime.”

I do not want to go into the rights and wrongs of that particular case. And certainly, despite the tenor of the judgment, there is some merit in the argument offered by Arun Jaitley, counsel for Zee News, that the channel had first submitted the tapes of the sting operation to the judiciary and only then broadcast them. Jaitley argued that Zee News had behaved with responsibility and that the intention had not been to denigrate the judicial system.

No matter who you agree with — Jaitley or the Chief Justice — there is little doubt that the case will once again focus attention on the ethics of news television. Moreover, the judgment comes at a time when the Information and Broadcasting Ministry is circulating a draft Broadcasting Bill that many media professionals regard as going against the spirit of a free press.

Barkha Dutt-
The recent judgment against Zee News for attempting such an exposé is already a matter of concern.

'Concern'?- isn't that rather an understatement? What will the Supreme Court do if the reporter from the Zee News does not apologize? Send him to jail? For exposing corruption in the judiciary? Like I have said before- sometimes it feels it's Orwell's 1984 all the time.

It is left to 'Kiran', one of those faceless anonymous posters on the net so despised by some in the MSM(mainstream media) to say it out loud and clear-

"The only way to rid the country of corruption is to hang a few of you on the lamp post. The law does not permit us to do it but otherwise we would prefer to hang people like you to the lamp post," a Bench of Justices S B Sinha and Markandeya Katju was quoted by PTI as saying. The Bench made the statement while hearing the bail application of Braj Bhushan Prasad, a dismissed employee of Bihar government for his alleged involvement in the Rs 1,000 crore fodder scam.This sounds very good but what about the corruption in Judiciary? The same supreme court instead of punishing the corrupt judge of the Gujrat Judiciary in the Zee TV case is shielding the judge and is bent upon punishing the Zee TV for exposing corruption in judciary. It seems the judges of SC do not know the saying " Practice before you preach to others"

Note -Barkha Dutt's article is otherwise actually quite good.

(all emphasis mine)