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Agreeing with this point of view, Madras High Court judge, Justice GR Swaminathan said that the scope of "emperor" would also include the Courts and Judges.
It is only the press that can show the mirror to the emperor and say that the "emperor is not wearing any clothes", Justice Rajiv Shakdher said on Saturday during an online discussion on Freedom of Speech.
The Delhi High Court Judge was on a panel along with Madras High Court's Justice GR Swaminathan and Advocate Sanjay Pinto to discuss Freedom of Speech as part of the 15th-anniversary lecture series organized by the HSB Partners, Advocates.
Justice Shakdher observed that Article 19(1)(a) is one of the crown jewels of the Constitution of India. freedom of the press is intrinsic to freedom of fpeech under Article 19(1)(a), he said.
He went on to observed that our Constitution does not specifically include freedom of the press in the ambit of Article 19(1)(a) unlike in the American Constitution.
However, the Courts have, through their judgments, held freedom of the press to be a part of Article 19 (1)(a), Justice Shakdher said citing Anuradha Bhasin's judgment as the latest example.
The Judge went on to say that the Madras High Court has been at the forefront in upholding this right, citing the example of the R Rajagopal case and the N Ram case.
In the May 21 N Ram judgment, the Madras High Court had emphasised that criminal defamation proceedings cannot be misused by the State to throttle democracy or settle political scores with adversaries.
The Court made the observation while allowing a batch of petitions by various media houses to quash defamation proceedings launched by the Tamil Nadu government over press reports dating between 2011-2013.
During yesterday's discussion, Justice Shakdher went on to observe that,
Agreeing with this point of view, Justice GR Swaminathan said that the scope of "emperor" would also include the Courts and the Judges. He added that judges have to be mindful to not resort to initiating defamation and contempt proceedings against journalists. He opined,
He noted that while Article 19(1)(a) has reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2), the right itself must be construed expansively and the restrictions in a limited scope. Justice Swaminathan said,
Advocate and former journalist Sanjay Pinto agreed with the two Judges to say that the role of the media is required to be adversarial to speak truth to power. Pinto said,
However, in the time of broadcast TV news, there is a need for a balance to be drawn, opined the members of the discussion panel.
Justice Shakdher opined that there is a need for self-censorship because while freedom of press is integral there is a need to draw a balance.
Justice Swaminathan said that when live broadcast news is used as platform for controversial opinions, the news anchors may dissociate themselves from such opinions.
However, shedding light on what has become of broadcast news, Justice Shakdher said that broadcast news has become commerce. Pinto, adding to this sentiment said that TV news is now a mad rat race for TRPs owing to which the news anchors cater to the audience which now has a voyeuristic tendency.
Pinto further argued that Primetime anchors are no longer speaking truth to power but are acting as cheerleaders.
The panel also discussed the impact of social media, fake news and the need for regulation in these respects.
Notably, it was also opined that there may be a need for regulating the content on social media given that the same may become tools to hate speech.
On this topic, Justice Shakdher added that social media posts which may offend the sentiments of some people, but do not degrade the ethos of plurality are not criminally actionable.
On the other hand, he added, "Posts which target a particular community, section, and degrade the ethos of plurality our Constitution stands for are perhaps to be dealt with."
He also noted that there needs to be clarity on what amounts to actionable hate speech. He observed, "Content such as satire cannot be labelled as hate speech because the dispensation is thin-skinned."