Making imputations damage institution: SC Judge

Last Updated 30 June 2020, 15:19 IST

A Supreme Court judge, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, on Sunday said that it was unfortunate that some of those who have been part of the institution, either from the Bar or the Bench, made imputations and gradings against the institution.

"Criticism of a viewpoint and judgment is no problem. But when imputations and gradings start being made, I think we damage the very institution," he said.

"There is a problem of 'after me the deluge.' which means, since we are gone, everything is wrong," he said.

Justice Kaul was giving a lecture on "Freedom of Speech in times of COVID-19 - Fake News and Misinformation" via webinar organised by the Madras Bar Association.

The Supreme Court recently faced criticism for being indifferent to the plight of migrant workers in the wake of lockdown imposed to contain coronavirus. Former judge, Justice Madan B Lokur, in an article gave an 'F' grade to the Supreme Court due to its failure in addressing the problems of the migrants.

He said the members of the Bar and the Judiciary who have been here must appreciate the challenges of any time and the system. Institutions should not be unnecessarily vilified.

"To remain in news has also become a problem and the tendency is more critical and in a manner that crosses certain lines. This is like misinformation pandemic and I hope there is rethink of this process," he said.

"I think some boundary has to be maintained otherwise it becomes part of a disinformation which causes doubts on institutions and I don't think that's good for any system because if you mistrust every system then you don't have a system, you have anarchy," he added.

Justice Kaul said the Constitution provided for a limited restriction on Freedom of Speech as absence of it resulted in lack of dissent.

"Even prior to the COVID period, we are increasingly becoming intolerant of the opinions that do not match with ours. What is perceived as the middle path becomes the casualty. There are various shades of grey, it is not always black and white," he pointed out.

As a democratic polity, how to appreciate the other opinion that is different from ours becomes an important aspect, he added.

"So people who hold opposing views may be called "Modi Bhakt" or an "Urban Naxal" or other labels. In these different political views also, the ability to convey one's ideas is important. Often the section calling another as intolerant is itself also getting intolerant," he added.

Justice Kaul stressed at the menace of incessant forwarding of WhatsApp messages, says these messages often are forwarded "mindlessly" without even seeing if the information is right or not leaving it open for the recipient to verify the information.

(Published 31 May 2020, 12:49 IST)

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