Noted jurist Harish Salve on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it can intervene with regulations to protect judicial functioning but "nothing permits" the government to control the media.
"The idea that media is beyond the regulation is completely wrong. However, it is also correct that it (media) is beyond the regulation of the government. Nothing will permit the government to control the media," he told a five-judge Constitution Bench, which is deliberating on framing guidelines for media for covering court proceedings.
He told the bench headed by chief justice SH Kapadia that government regulation will be "suspect" when dealing with the media and "it is the court which should do it".
"If the court feels that a particular publication would affect the regular conduct of the court, it (court) has the power, whatever necessary, to protect the judicial functioning," Salve submitted before the bench, also comprising justices DK Jain, SS Nijjar, Ranjana Prakash Desai and JS Khehar.
"Essentially the court of record has the power to protect the judicial functioning," he said adding that "a court of record has been recognised to enjoy the power to punish for contempt."
"It is obvious that if it is necessary to injunct publication to ensure fairness of trial. Such a power would be available to a court of record. An order preventing publication of evidence was held to be valid order by a court conducting a trial," Salve said.
While making submissions on balancing the right of freedom of speech, vis-a-vis press freedom under Article 19 and right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution, he said rights under Article 19 is an individual right and cannot be equated in terms of "class rights".
Deliberating on sub-judice matters, the senior advocate said publication of "leaks" will lead to punishment under defamation provision.
Salve further said exchanges between a counsel and the bench do not constitute expression of opinion of the court.
"Reporting of exchanges in court has to be circumspect and purely factual. Any report that suggests that that the court has cast aspersions on any person or functionary during the course of an exchange is simply wrong. It may also be tendentious."
Further, action in defamation would lie against any report which suggests that the court has passed strictures on a person or a functionary while the ultimate judgement of the court does not support such a view, he said.