Supreme Court says wrong to brand some judges as ‘pro-government,’ agrees with suggestion to regulate social media

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The Supreme Court has strongly disapproved the allegations that some its judges were loyal to the Centre’s Narendra Modi government while also agreeing with suggestions to regulate social media.

Supreme Court

This was in reference to the former Supreme Court Bar Association president, Dushyant Dave’s alleged remarks that many of the SC judges were “pro-government.” Dave had made the assertion during a discussion on NDTV on the resignation of Karnataka High Court Judge Jayant Patel – who had ordered a CBI investigation in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter case in Gujarat.

On the resignation of Justice Patel, Asim Pandya, president of the Gujarat High Court Bar Association, too had said about writing an open letter to ‘pro-government judges.

In his letter, Pandya had written, “The trend of judges taking pro-government stance in certain important cases or to fall in line with the political philosophy of the ruling party is gradually increasing…The judiciary has in most of such cases when brought before it preferred to remain a mute umpire and failed to lift the ugly veil of “law and order or public order” or “public interest”.”

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was visibly anguished over the statement, expressing concern over the growing trend of posting uncharitable comments, trolls and aggressive reactions on social media platforms on every issue, including judges and judicial proceedings.

“They should sit in the Supreme Court to see how the government is hauled up,” a bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, observed.

“Some member from the Bar commented that the Supreme Court is dominated by pro-government judges. They should come and sit in the Supreme Court to see how the government is hauled up in favour of citizens’ rights,” PTI quoted the Bench’s observation.

The apex court also agreed to the suggestions mooted by senior advocates Fali S Nariman and Harish Salve that such incidents on social media needed to be regulated.

The concern of the bench found strong support from the two eminent lawyers, who are assisting the apex court in a matter relating to the comment made by former UP Minister Azam Khan in a highway gangrape case.

“I have deleted my Twitter account. It was so abusive,” Salve said, adding that once when he was appearing in a case relating to a Christian medical college and the subsequent occurences on his Twitter handle forced him to delete it.

“I have stopped looking at them,” Nariman said, adding that unwarranted comments about almost everything can be found on these platforms.

The bench then said that one of the observations made during the hearing on the Rohingya matter was projected as if an order has been delivered and it became a subject matter of debate.

Salve said that anything that disrupts free exchange of views between the judges and the arguing lawyers needs to be curbed

The bench also said that there was misuse of social media platforms and people disseminated wrong information even about the court proceedings.

“Earlier the right to privacy could have been infringed by the State only. Now such things emanate from private parties also,” the bench said.

Pointing out that a newspaper or a media organisation which gets an audio clip, publishes it without taking any responsibility for its authenticity, Salve asked: “does it not amount to infringement of privacy”.

The concept of “my house is my castle” is fast fading due to the intrusion of private players, the bench said.  Nariman then said the Indian civil laws were “defective” and unable to handle such incidents.

“There is an urgent need to have some kind of regulation,” Salve said. The bench agreed to the suggestion. Meanwhile, the top court today referred to a constitution bench questions like whether a public functionary or a minister can claim freedom of speech while airing views in a sensitive matter which is under investigation.

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