Chief Justice of India N V Ramana on Saturday lashed out at the media for running 'kangaroo' courts with "ill-informed and agenda driven debates" on issues involving justice delivery and proving to be detrimental to the health of democracy.
He also flagged "concerted campaigns in media, particularly on social media against judges" and rising number of media trials, affecting the fair functioning and independence of judiciary.
Speaking at the inaugural Justice S B Sinha memorial lecture on "Life of a Judge" at Ranchi, Justice asked the media, particularly the electronic and social media, to
behave responsibly, saying they are as important a stakeholder as the judiciary is and they should use their voice to educate the people and to energise the nation in a collective endeavour to build a progressive, prosperous, and peaceful India.
Maintaining that doing justice is not an easy responsibility, the CJI said at times, there are also concerted campaigns in media, particularly on social media against judges.
"Another aspect which affects the fair functioning and independence of judiciary is the rising number of media trials. New media tools have enormous amplifying ability but appear to be incapable of distinguishing between the right and the wrong, the good and the bad and the real and the fake. Media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases," he said.
"Of late, we see the media running kangaroo courts, at times on issues even experienced judges find difficult to decide.... 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 backwards," he added.
He said print media still has certain degree of accountability whereas, electronic media has zero accountability as what it shows vanishes into thin year. Still worse is social media.
In view of frequent transgressions and consequent social unrests, he said there is a growing demand for stricter media regulations and accountability.
"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. When liberties are exercised responsibly, within their domains, there will be no necessity of placing reasonable or proportionate external restrictions," he said.
In his speech, Justice Ramana also talked about a misconception in the minds of the people that judges stay in ultimate comfort, work only from 10 am to 4 pm and enjoy their holidays.
"Such a narrative is untrue....It is not easy to prepare for more than 100 cases every week, listen to novel arguments, do independent research, and author judgements, while also dealing with the various administrative duties of a Judge, particularly of a senior judge," he said.
"Therefore, when false narratives are created about the supposed easy life led by Judges, it is difficult to swallow," he added.
Justice Ramana also pointed out one gets to hear that judges, being unelected, should not get into legislative and executive arenas. But this ignores the Constitutional responsibilities that is placed on the judiciary.
"Judicial review of legislative and executive actions, is an integral part of the Constitutional scheme. It is the heart and soul of the Indian Constitution. In the absence of judicial review, people’s faith in our Constitution would have diminished. The Constitution is ultimately for the people. The judiciary is the organ which breathes life into the Constitution," he said.
Referring to piling up of case, Justice Ramana said the burden on an already fragile judicial infrastructure is increasing by the day.
"There have been a few knee jerk reactions in augmenting infrastructure in a few places. 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.