Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam on Tuesday said free press and free trial are essential in a democracy and the media should avoid sensational and provocative headlines, particularly in matters pending in courts.
“An independent judiciary is the bulwark of a free society as is an independent media.
As two pillars of democracy, the media and the judiciary need each other and the public needs both,” the CJI said in his address at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards.
Justice Sathasivam said journalists must not fall prey to the growing trend of breaking the news first.
“Today, many newspapers and channels have highly prejudiced headlines, with facts and essential background taking a backseat,” he said.
The CJI said he felt provocative headlines are flashed even before all facts have been verified because journalists are under pressure in the highly competitive environment due to commercial concerns.
“The most receptive aspect in this context is the trial by media. It has resulted in a real conflict because it involves two conflicting principles – free press and free trial, in both of which the public are vitally interested,” Justice Sathasivam said.
“The ever-increasing tendency to use media while the matter is sub-judice has been frowned down by the courts on several occasions…It is of extreme public interest that no conduct should be permitted which is likely to prevent a litigant in a court of justice from having his case tried freely and fairly,” the CJI said.
Justice Sathasivam, however, strongly cautioned against any attempts from outside to regulate the media.
“The temptation to correct the media through an external regulatory authority may seem a dominant urge, but it is surely not the answer. The press is naturally and rightly touchy about it.”