The media must respect an individual’s right to privacy, right to reputation and should refrain from conducting ‘media trial’ that goes against the presumption of innocence of an accused, Chief Justice of India (CJI) TS Thakur said on Wednesday.
Delivering the second Justice JS Verma Memorial Lecture on ‘Freedom of Expression: Evolution in Seven Decades of Independence’, CJI Thakur said: “If media wants to be free, it must be fair. If it ceases to be fair, it can’t remain free.”
Justice Thakur said the media didn’t have an absolute immunity, adding that it didn’t have an absolute right to free speech under the Constitution, which prescribed several reasonable restrictions on it.
Highlighting the ‘problem areas’ in the exercise of free speech by the fourth estate, the CJI said media’s right to free speech was often coming into conflict with an individual’s right to privacy, right to reputation and right to fair trial and also issues of national security.
Dwelling on the impact of technological advancement and investigative journalism on media, he questioned the intrusive methods often used by media, saying such practices clashed with an individual’s right to be left alone.
“They (media) will have to be governed by some ethics,” the CJI said in the presence of many media barons and TV news channel heads who were there as members of the News Broadcasters’ Association.
Justice Thakur underlined the role of judiciary in protecting free speech, saying that right from the 1950s, the Supreme Court has been coming to the rescue of the press.
After the function, the CJI said differences with government over most of the issues relating to memorandum of procedure for appointing judges had been sorted out and the remaining ones would be sorted out in two weeks.