The Supreme Court today said the media cannot be stopped from reporting oral observations made by judges. While hearing the Election Commission's plea against the Madras High Court's remarks made last week, the court said the plea was "far-fetched", .
“We cannot say that the media cannot report the contents of the discussions in a court of law," the court said. "Discussions in a court of law are of equal public interest and I would put it on the same pedestal as the final order. The unfolding of the debate in the court of law is equally important and media has a duty to report."
On April 26, the Madras High Court had held the Election Commission "singularly responsible" for the current Covid situation in India. In its oral observations, the high court said the commission should "probably be put on murder charges for failing to ensure compliance of Covid protocol during election rallies".
The court's remarks were widely reported in the media. The Election Commission then filed a plea in the high court asking that the media be restrained from reporting oral observations. The court refused to pass any such order and the commission then approached the Supreme Court.
Tamil Nadu chief electoral officer Satyabrata Sahoo, who filed the petition, said the April 26 oral observations were not recorded in the final order, yet they were reported by the media as being the opinion of the court. These media reports, Sahoo claimed, “have tarnished the image of the EC as an independent constitutional agency that is entrusted with the constitutional responsibility of conducting elections”. He added that this could lower the faith of the citizens in democracy and democratic processes.