The Supreme Court’s oral direction for an unconditional apology from a TV reporter who conducted a sting operation and obtained bailable warrants from an Ahmedabad court against the then President, Chief Justice of India, a Supreme Court Judge and a senior advocate in 2004, has not gone down well with the legal fraternity.
Taking note of the hearing and oral observations of the court, the Bar Association of India has filed an application seeking to intervene in the matter, which is likely to come up for hearing on February 14.
In its application filed through counsel Seita Vaidialingam, the BAI said: “Far-reaching questions regarding the status and dignity of the courts, the freedom of the media, the role of the bar and the question of combating misconduct in the lower judiciary may arise for discussion and debate.”
The application referred to BAI’s objects of upholding the Constitution and the representative free and democratic form of government and promoting the rule of law.
On July 26, a bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan had told Zee News reporter Vijay Shekhar: “You tender an unconditional apology and then we will consider whether to accept it or not.”
Shekhar had said the sting was carried out to expose corruption in the lower judiciary in Gujarat and there was no intention of tarnishing its image by sensationalising the issue.
The Zee News counsel said the channel acted responsibly as it consulted a senior lawyer, brought the matter to the court’s notice, submitted the original tapes of the sting and the telecast it.
Giving examples of unconventional methods adopted by journalists to expose corruption in public life, senior counsel Arun Jaitley had said in the past, a scribe actually bought a woman – Kamla – to expose the flesh trade. The recent “cash-for-queries” scam was another example, he said, adding none of the journalists was prosecuted. It was intended for public good, he had said.
“What public good has he (the reporter) done?…Prima facie the reporter has committed a serious crime,” the CJI said, adding all the material facts, including the addresses of persons against whom warrants were issued were suppressed.
The court had even threatened to initiate criminal action against the reporter for bringing the judiciary into disrepute. “It was clear from reports of the CBI and the high court that it was an isolated incident but the entire criminal justice system was questioned. Everybody believed that this was happening… including the judges,” the bench had said.