SC judge seeks regulatory law for social, digital media

New Delhi: Supreme Court judge Justice J.B. Pardiwala on Sunday called on Parliament to consider introducing appropriate legislative and regulatory provisions to regulate digital and social media as trials by digital media cause undue interference in the process of justice dispensation, as he cited various instances of media crossing “Laxman Rekha”.

Justice Pardiwala, who was part of the Supreme Court bench, which slammed former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for “igniting” the country and damaging the social fabric with her remark on Prophet Muhammad, emphasised on regulating digital and social media in the country to preserve the rule of law.

Media trials are not healthy for rule of law, he said in his address on topic “Vox Populi vs. Rule of Law: Supreme Court of India” in the 2nd Justice H.R. Khanna Memorial National Symposium.

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“Regulation of digital and social media especially in the context of sensitive trials which are sub judice, must be dwelt upon by the Parliament by introducing appropriate legislative and regulatory provisions in this regard,” he said.

He said a trial is essentially a process to be carried out by courts, however in the modern-day context, trials by digital media are an undue interference in the process of justice dispensation and cross that “Laxman Rekha” many times.

Justice Pardiwalwa said a section of people, possessing half-truths, scrutinising the judicial process “are a real challenge to dispensation of justice through the rule of law. Social and digital media nowadays primarily resorted to express personalised opinions against judges per say rather than a constructive critical appraisal of their judgments”.

He said constitutional courts have graciously accepted informed dissent and cited the personalised agenda-driven attacks on judges.

“This is where digital and social media needs to be mandatorily regulated in the country to preserve the rule of law and our Constitutiona. Attacks on judges for their judgments lead to a dangerous scenario,” he said.

Justice Pardiwala said India still can’t be classified as a complete and mature democracy, and social and digital media is employed frequently to politicise legal and constitutional issues.

Citing the judgment in Ayodhya title dispute, he pointed out that as the case was nearing the verdict, there were political overtones. “Judges deciding the dispute may get a bit shaken, which is antithetic to the rule of law. That is not healthy for the rule of law.”

He emphasised that social media is overrun by people “possessing half-truth” and those who don’t understand rule of law, evidence, judicial process and its inherent limitations. Citing cases of serious offences, Justice Pardiwala said the immense power of social and digital media is resorted to precipitating a perception of guilt or innocence of the accused even before the trial is over.

Justice Pardiwala said he was a firm believer of the rule of law had no exceptions and that the opinion of the public hardly mattered when it came to judicial verdicts and added judicial verdicts could not be reflections of the influence of public opinion on the court.

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