NEW DELHI: Justice KM Joseph, one of the judges on the Supreme Court bench which had decided to hear the Rafale review petitions afresh, on Wednesday reminded the media of its duty saying that if freedom is enjoyed by the Press without a deep sense of responsibility, it can weaken democracy.
Writing a separate but concurring judgment, Justice Joseph said, “The ability of truth to be recognised by a discerning public in the supposedly free market place of ideas forms much of the basis for the grant of the unquestionable freedom to the Press including the Media Houses.”
Interestingly, the judge cited his own father — Justice K K Mathew’s ruling of 1975 in the State of UP vs Raj Narain case wherein the judgment went against the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The judgment at that time too was unanimous and there was a concurring opinion going further on transparency which was written by Justice KK Mathew.
Expressing concern over media bias, Justice Joseph said, “In some sections, there appears to be a disturbing trend of bias. Controlling business interests and political allegiances appear to erode the duty of dispassionate and impartial purveying of information.”
He reminded the Press of the public duty it has in disseminating truthful information as its freedom continues to be protected and said, “It must realise that its consumers are entitled to demand that the stream of information that flows from it, must remain unpolluted by considerations other than truth.”He added, “In fact, the right of the Press in India is no higher than the right of the citizens under Article 19(1) (a) and is traced to the same provision.”
He also laid stress on the significance of the Right to Information (RTO) and used the RTI jurisprudence to rebut claims of the privilege claimed by the Central government.
He further said, “I would observe that in regard to documents which are improperly obtained ... undoubtedly the ordinary rule of relevancy alone may not suffice as larger public interest may warrant refusing to legitimise what is forbidden...”
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday charged Congress president Rahul Gandhi with wilfully misinterpreting the SC judgment on review petitions pertaining to its earlier order in the Rafale fighter jet deal. She claimed that Gandhi’s tweets amounted to contempt of court.
“He has claimed that the apex court has agreed that a private firm has benefited. There are no such references to substantiate claims of Gandhi, who has surely not read the judgment,” Sitharaman said during a presser