People with half-truths use social media to control court process, says SC judge

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New Delhi: Supreme Court Justice Justice JB Pardiwala on Sunday called for the regulation of digital and social media which was used to express “personalized opinions” against the judiciary and thus lead to a “dangerous scenario”.

In his address on “Vox Populi vs. Rule of Law: The Supreme Court of India” at the Second National Justice HR Khanna Memorial Symposium, Justice Pardiwala said that Parliament was merely dwelling on the introduction appropriate laws and regulations, more importantly in the context of cases that are pending trial.

This was, he stressed, to preserve the “rule of law” underlined in the Constitution.

Justice Pardiwala was elevated to the Supreme Court in May replacing dozens of other High Court judges. Ranked 49e in all the seniority of India, Justice Pardiwala will become the Chief Justice of India in May 2028 and will serve for two years, three months and eight days.

Social media is used by those who ‘only own the half-truth’ to ‘express personalized opinions, more against judges, rather than a constructive critical assessment of their judgments’, Judge SC said. This trend, he added, “undermines the judicial institution and undermines its dignity”.

Her statement comes two days after a Supreme Court bench rejected former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s motion to dismiss several criminal cases filed against her for the ‘derogatory remarks’ about the Prophet Muhammad. and hand them over to the Delhi Police for investigation.

The bench consisting of Judges Pardiwala and Judge Surya Kanthad orally expressed a somber opinion on Sharma’s “irresponsible statement” and blamed her for the Udaipur murder. The observations had sparked massive outrage on social media, with many right-wing supporters condemning the judges for the decision and their observations.

In India, which still cannot be called a fully mature and informed democracy, digital social media is frequently used to politicize purely legal and constitutional issues, the judge lamented.

He gave the example of the Ayodhya verdict, which was essentially a land and title dispute, and how it took on political overtones by the time the final verdict was delivered in 2019.

The SC judge referred to the “imputations” and “motives” that were leveled at the judges who wrote the verdict, saying people had conveniently forgotten that “one day or another a judge had to settle the contentious civil dispute which was unquestionably one of the oldest. ongoing litigation in the country has more than 38,000 odd pages.


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‘Lakshman Rekha crossed several times’

Regarding the role of the media, the SC judge said that a trial is essentially a process to be conducted by the court. “However, in the modern context, trials by digital media constitute an undue interference in the process of dispensing justice.”

This “passing through Lakshman Rekha repeatedly” is “disturbing”, especially when people with half-truths use social media to control the legal process, he said.

The “concepts of judicial discipline, binding precedents and inherent limits on judicial discretion” were “elusive” for these people, but they were the real challenge to “the administration of justice by the rule of law”, he said. he asserted.

“Social and digital media are, nowadays, mainly used to express personalized opinions, more against the judges themselves, rather than a constructive critical evaluation of their judgments, this is what harms the judicial institution and lowers his dignity.”

As for the constitutional courts, he said, they have “always graciously accepted informed dissent and constructive criticism”, but have always “ruled out a personalized agenda of attacks on judges”.

And, according to Judge Pardiwala, this is where “digital and social media must be mandatorily regulated in the country”.

Attempted attacks on judges for judgments lead to a dangerous scenario where judges pay more attention to what the media thinks rather than what the law actually requires, and this pushes “the rule of law on the burner, ignoring the sanctity of respecting the courts,” he added.

Giving the example of the Sahara case where the Supreme Court established guidelines for media coverage of cases pending trial, he said it devised the “doctrine of the adjournment of public broadcast” as a precautionary measure where the media are not allowed to publish opinions. on a pending matter until the end of the hearing.

This doctrine of adjournment, according to the judge, should not be read as a prior sensation or compulsion, but rather as a protection against possible abuse. Following this doctrine may be a viable option, given how non-judicial factors shape public opinion, he said.

Justice Pardiwala affirmed that a judicial verdict, good or bad, is always rendered by a court vested with powers under the Constitution.

The remedy for every court order or judgment is “clearly not available to digital or social media but to a higher court of justice in the judicial hierarchy”, he said.

According to him, the trend that is developing on social networks risks leaving judges a little shaken, which is contrary to the rule of law and not healthy.

“Another issue that has been hot cake for digital and social media is punishment in cases of serious cases,” he pointed out.

The immense power of these platforms is constantly used to precipitate a perception of guilt or innocence of the accused even before the end of the trial, he said. “It is also a sacrilege to the rule of law, especially in high profile cases where either the incident is high profile or the accused is a big man.”

“Even before the end of the trial, society begins to believe that the outcome of legal proceedings should be nothing but a conviction with extreme punishment for the accused,” he remarked. .

Judge Pardiwala cited two international studies – the 1994 Madrid Principles and a 2011 report by the International Bar Association – which suggested ways and measures to address the perennial problem of media lawsuits.

The suggested restrictions on the media should be permitted by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, he said, reading the Madrid Principles.

Judges, he added, cannot speak through their language but only through their judgments. However, he concluded, “the judiciary cannot exist independently of society and interaction is inevitable, but the rule of law is insurmountable.

(Editing by Tony Rai)


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