“Discussions in Court lie at same pedestal as judicial orders; media cannot be stopped from reporting”: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud & MR Shah while hearing an appeal against the Madras High Court observations as well as remarks which stated that Election Commission of India was singularly responsible for sugre in CoVID cases & that officers of ECI should be booked for “murder charges” has observed that discussions in court lie at the same pedestal as compared to judicial orders & are of public importance. The Court also observed that the media cannot be stopped from reporting the discussions made in court.
“The Election Commission of India is a constitutional body. Now we cannot say that the media will not report the discussions made in the court. They are of the same importance & have the same pedestal as compared to the order. What forms the part of the judicial order is what the judges actually said. Whatever said in Court is momentary.”, Justice DY Chandrachud remarked.
Sr Adv Rakesh Dwivedi appeared for the Election Commission of India & Adv Pradeep Kumar Yadav appeared for the intervenor.
Sr Adv Rakesh Dwivedi on behalf of the Election Commission of India submitted that the ECI was captivated without taking into consideration any pleading, any evidence of CoVID & without gathering any information from the political leaders holding the rally or taking into account the provisions of the National Disaster Management Act.
In this context, he further contended that the Media Houses on all platforms i.e social, electronic & print gave wide publicity to the observations made by the Division Bench of Hon’ble Madras High Court which not only tarnished the image of the ECI as an independent Constitutional Authority entrusted with the Constitutional mandate of conducting elections in the largest and most vibrant democracy of the world but also had an impact of lowering the faith of the masses on democracy and democratic processes themselves.
“The aforesaid unprecedented incident of such unwarranted and baseless observations being made by the Division Bench of the High Court, that too without any material whatsoever on record, has happened for the first time since the existence of the Constitution of India.”, said Dwivedi.
At this juncture Justice DY Chandrachud said that “The unfolding of the process of judicial thinking in law is equally important & is important for the citizens. It's not only our judgments but also application of mind.”
Dwivedi: I can't say that the media should not report. All of this is in the context that the court goes outside the case.
Chandrachud J: We also need to look in this way. The ideology of the judges is reflected in the Court Proceedings.
“Sometimes the judges say something in a LARGER PUBLIC INTEREST. You should accept everything in the right spirit & see the result.The subsequent comments did improve the system.”, said Justice MR Shah
Sr Adv Rakesh Dwivedi also contended that the observations made by the Madras High Court on April 26, 2021 were tainted with bias, arbitrariness & perversity as the campaigning in the State of Tamil Nadu ended way back on April 4, 2021 & that the officers of the ECI were not given an opportunity to place the entire factual position before the Hon’ble High Court which was in violation of principles of natural justice.
To further substantiate his contention, he submitted that,
“The ECI is only concerned with the state administration only as far as it concerns the conduct of free & fair elections. The conduct of elections does not absolve the State Govt from the obligation to enforce the laws of general application in the interest of the safety & health of the citizenry. The state govt has to ensure that CoVID protocols are followed. There is a perception that ECI has responsibility for everything. In Madras, where this was being done, the condition was not as bad as Delhi.”
“Mr Diwedi, I've taken your point. We need to ensure that things are said in course in open dialogue. We don't come in the morning by writing points that we would ask these questions to Mr Diwedi. Sometimes the free flow dialogue that happens in Court. We aren't blaming the ECI. Democracy survives in the faith of the common citizens. In the course of dialogue, the judges do express something. We are normally very careful to not put down something in the judicial order which is not appropriate. We take your point that this particular conversation of the role of ECI being a murderer is not the subject matter of this petition.” , said Justice DY Chandrachud.
Sr Adv Rakesh Dwivedi also contended that it was not justified for an independent Constitutional Authority to make unwarranted allegations upon another independent Constitutional Authority by way of observations without any basis, which had an effect of undermining and tarnishing the image of both the Constitutional Authorities and therefore, is it healthy for the democracy.
Advocate Pradeep Kumar Yadav drew the Court's attention to the larger picture that while elections in state of Tamil Nadu were over, the process of elections & counting in West Bengal & Tamil Nadu was still ongoing.
“ECI is even more powerful than the head of the state where the elections are happening. There have been instances where police superintendents & DGP’s have been changed at the behest of the EC during the elections. If they had issued a direction to the district magistrates or to the DSP’s that every rally must only have 500-1000 people, lest the elections be abolished, these authorities would have ensured implementations of these guidelines”, Yadav further advanced.
Advocate Pradeep Kumar Yadav further said that he was supporting the Madras High Court. “Although the words must have been harsh, they were right”, Yadav submitted.
Justice DY Chandrachud while reserving the matter for order ensured that the same would be a Balanced one. He further said that the Bench cannot stop the judges of High Court to confine themselves to pleadings.
“The judges are overwhelmed. In the CoVID times, they are seeing what's happening around & they are working on ground.”, said Justice DY Chandrachud
Justice DY Chandrachud further said that, “We will have to maintain the sanctity of judicial order, we will have to also give liberty to the Chief Justice of HC, we also feel that the media should include everything that has been observed in the court.”
Case Title: The Chief Election Commissioner of India v. MR Vijayabhaskar & Ors