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Biased media, agenda-driven debates weakening democracy

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Judiciary

 

Source: Indian Express

Context: India’s CJI  has highlighted concerns that “ill-informed and agenda-driven debates” and “biased views” are weakening democracy.

Importance of Judiciary: Judiciary as “the organ which breathes life into the Constitution: Judicial review of legislative and executive actions is an integral part of the Constitutional scheme. It is the heart and soul of the Indian Constitution.”

 

Other concerns

  • Media trial of judges: Doing justice is not an easy responsibility. At times, there are also concerted campaigns in media, particularly on social media against judges.
  • New media tools have an enormous amplifying ability but appear to be incapable of distinguishing between the right and the wrong, the good and the bad, and the real and the fake. Media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases
  • No accountability: Print media still has a certain degree of accountability. Whereas, electronic media has zero accountability as what it shows vanishes into thin air. Still, worse is social media
  • No protection: Politicians, bureaucrats, police officers and other public representatives are often provided with security even after their retirement owing to the sensitiveness of their jobs. Ironically, judges are not extended similar protection.
  • Adjudication Issues: One of the biggest challenges before the judiciary at present is prioritising the matters for adjudication as judges cannot turn a blind eye to social realities.
  • Poor judicial Infrastructure: There have been a few knee-jerk reactions to augmenting infrastructure in a few places. However, there has not been any concrete plan to equip the judiciary to meet the challenges of the foreseeable future.

 

Recommendations:

  • Responsible Media: Media, particularly electronic and social media, should behave responsibly.
  • The media should “self-regulate and measure their words
  • Need to strengthen the judiciary and empower judges: There has been an increasing number of physical attacks on judges being witnessed.
Social media and Judiciary

Impact of Social Media on the institution of judiciary

  • Impact on accused
    • Damages dignity of accused: Social media usually portrays the accused as a villain not based on facts but only to sensationalize the news, which causes damage to the dignity of the accused. E.g. Parents of Arushi Talwar in Arushi murder case (2008)
  • Issue of Media trial: Media trial describes the impact of television and print media coverage on a case through an attempt by the media to hold the accused guilty even before the trial begins.
    • Biased views being propagated by media are affecting the people, weakening democracy, and harming the system. In this process, justice delivery gets adversely affected.
    • E.g. In the cases of the murder of Jessica Lall (2006), Priyadarshini Mattoo, Nitish Katera, and Aarushi Talwar case (2008), media influence was observed interfering with the investigation and justice.
  • Impact on victim
    • Mental trauma to the victim: In cases of a sexual offense, the explicit description of the ordeal on television creates mental torture to the victim. It leads to a breach of privacy, a bias in public opinion, as well as interferes with the sentencing process.
  • Impact on Judges
    • Lowers the faith in judge’s decision
    • Influences judge: Social media draws the judge’s attention to details that are not to be addressed in adjudicating the case and could subconsciously influence the judge’s judgment.
    • Additional Solicitor General of India Madhavi Divan stated that “judges can be put under pressure because they are as human as anybody else”.
  • Impact on the society and legal system
    • Threat to judicial institutions
    • Violates principle of natural justice
  • Ethical and privacy impact in Judicial cases: In an open court trial, protecting privacy becomes very difficult, especially for women, children, and teenagers and also those who do not know how to protect their personal information on the web.

 

Solution:

  • Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct: It has established the values which judges must uphold namely independence, impartiality, integrity, propriety, equality, competence, and diligence.
  • Kerela HC passed a memorandum directing the district judiciary to not use social media for criticizing the policies and actions of the government and its institutions, ministers, and judges, or discuss any cases.
    • The HC will have a monitoring cell to observe and secure computer and internet systems provided in the courts and report about the misuse of social media.
  • The GOI notified Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021: for the regulated use of Social media
  • Germany has The Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) which for the past two years has required social network owners to combat fake news, hate speech, and other criminal posts against other individuals, or state institutions such as the judiciary
  • Need Societal capacity building for better usage: e.g. digital literacy, legal literacy and greater interaction of true facts, and busting legal myths.

 

Insta Links

Regulation of Social media