Won’t gag media, believe in freedom of press: CJI

Won’t gag media, believe in freedom of press: CJI

NEW DELHI, November 11 (TNN): Chief Justice Dipak Misra rejected a senior lawyer’s suggestion to bar the media from reporting the courtroom drama on Friday, where a sea of lawyers reacted angrily to advocate Prashant Bhushan’s unsubstantiated allegations against the CJI and sought contempt of court proceedings against him.

 

The CJI said, “I believe, all of us believe, in the freedom of press. I am always in support of freedom of speech and expression and the right of media to report proceedings accurately. I do not favour restraining the press in any matter. A similar prayer was made before me when I was a judge of Madhya Pradesh high court during the hearing of a very sensitive matter. I had outright refused to restrain the media from reporting the proceedings. Press must have its freedom.”

 

Members of the five-judge bench, especially Justice Arun Mishra, told Bhushan that he had made unsubstantiated allegations for which he was liable for contempt of court proceedings.

 

Not new to the court initiating contempt of court proceedings against him — one is pending in the SC against him for alleging seven years ago that most former CJIs were corrupt — Bhushan tried to make his submission.

 

But his voice was drowned as a large number of lawyers spoke in unison accusing him and his band of lawyers of attempting to terrorise judges through wild allegations.

 

Frustrated by his voice being drowned in the cacophony, Bhushan stormed out of the courtroom. After this, Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association office-bearer Gopal Singh suggested to the bench to treat the proceedings in camera and restrain the media from reporting it. The CJI immediately shot down the suggestion.

 

The bench also rejected a suggestion from former Supreme Court Bar Association office-bearer Ranji Thomas to constitute a full court and place both the petitions, which alleged judge-middleman nexus in grant of favourable orders to undeserving private medical colleges, before it.

 

The bench questioned the propriety of senior advocate Dushyant Dave mentioning Kamini Jaiswal’s petition before a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar on Thursday despite knowing that a similar petition by Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms was ordered to be listed before a bench led by Justice A K Sikri.

 

But there were lighter moments too in the courtroom. When Bhushan pleaded with the CJI to grant him “some indulgence” to make his arguments, a smiling CJI said, “In every case you argue before us, you are given indulgence. It is another matter that you have made wild allegations today.”

 

Bhushan returned the smile and acknowledged the indulgence granted to him. But minutes later, he angrily told the CJI to pass any order as the bench was not giving him opportunity to argue and stormed out of the courtroom.

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