Guidelines on Media Reporting – The Case and Issues

On March 20, 2012, Supreme Court of India issued a Notice notifying that, the case ‘Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd. & Ors. vs. Securities and Exchange Board of India & Anr.’, relating to framing of guidelines for reporting of cases in media, will be taken up for hearing before the Constitution Bench on and from March 27, 2012.

It could have possibly ended there. Sadly, it didn’t. Continued, “Hon’ble the Chief Justice has directed that any party who desires to make submissions in the matter, may do so by way of intervention”.

Since then, almost every possible Senior Counsel, wannabe Senior Counsel, Counsel with a Cause, Counsel for Publicity, Just a Counsel and so on, in and around Supreme Court, have appeared before the Constitution Bench.

Some, made their point. Some, failed to get to the point.

Names like, Fali Nariman, Shanthi Bhushan, Prashant Bhusan, Ram Jethmalani, Harish Salve, T.R. Andhyarujina, Soli Sorabjee, K K Venugopal, Vahanvati, Dr. Dhavan, all in one case, might show some ‘importance‘ attached to it. Let that be, commercial or constitutional.

Not too many people are convinced with the Supreme Court’s endeavor to frame guidelines with respect to reporting of cases in media. Two major arguments: (a) Come what may, no curbing of freedom of press/freedom of speech and expression (b) This case is not for what it is meant to be.

Whilst slightly agreeing to the later contention that, the scope of this matter has been stretched little too much than what it otherwise ought to have been, I have some reservations with the former contention.

I somehow feel, the real constitutional issues which the bench intends to decide, through this matter, have not been given enough focus. Not even by main stream media. Probably, that’s why they are discussing about it.

As a privileged lawyer, who managed to get his name in appearance list which is predominantly lengthier than the order itself, I give my ‘not-so-expert’ opinion about this case, through four issues, in its order, as follows:

(1) What rights are being violated by media/press?

(2) What efficacious remedies are available to such aggrieved person?

(3) Article 21 and Article 19(1) (a) – Priority or balance?

(4) Whether Supreme Court has the power to impose restrictions on Article 19(1) (a) when Article 19 (2) specifically mentions that limitations can be imposed only by ‘state enacted law’?

Considering the significance attached to each of these issues, I shall discuss these issues individually in separate posts.

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