Home > News > Self regulation for media is the key say legal experts at first Ram Jethmalani memorial lecture | India News

Self regulation for media is the key say legal experts at first Ram Jethmalani memorial lecture | India News

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MUMBAI: Legal stalwarts on Saturday deliberated virtually on the pros and cons of Media Trial at the first Ram Jethmalani Memorial lecture and the dominant advice was that external or governmental control must be eschewed.
Senior counsels Harish Salve and AM Singhvi both were of the view that control on news broadcasters cannot come from government. “Media has done some sterling work and no one wishes to curtail their freedom,’’ said Singhvi adding that violators were still “an exception’’ but suggested that remedy include “awareness’’ among all stakeholders. “Awareness of a paradox that external control is to be eschewed,’ he said adding, “Self regulation is the key, yet peer regulation has failed.’’
The News Broadcasting Standards Association (NBSA) an independent self-regulatory body headed by a former Judge faring better some, but “must issue more advisories; bare its teeth, bite hard, few egregious violators must be made examples of for this to stop,’’ said Singhvi who mentioned how Ram Jethmalani was “fearless and fearsome.’’
The other sharp and eloquent speakers included senior counsels C A Sundaram, Kapil Sibal and earlier as guests, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Supreme Court Judge, Justice N V Ramana , Attorney General for India K K Venugopal, Fali Nariman, solicitor general Tushar Mehta and former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee along with Mahesh Jethmalani.
The minister said, “Ram Jethmalani was a man of extraordinary conviction and an extraordinary parliamentarian, who lived by his principles.’’ Justice Ramana mentioned his association as a junior lawyer with the ace counsel but expressed his inability to say much since he is currently an SC Judge. Mehta said Jethmalani is foremost a great lawyer, and “he lived an unapologetic life’’ where he commanded and evoke many emotions, but “most of all a reverence.’’
Ram Jethmalani, a true legal legend, had passed on last September, aged 96, having practiced law since he was 17. His son Mahesh who curated the lecture series said the idea was to “endevour and promote informed opinion on important issues of the day.”
The reverence and respect each speaker had for the late former union law minister was evident. Venugopal said he was “brave and fearless and a great criminal lawyer who condemned corruption.’’ “I call him a phenomenon. He passed like a star in the annals of the legal system.’’
Sorabjee recalled how the legal giant also had a large heart and a sense of humour, with no bitterness even for his foes. He said “he will be remembered by people who believe in fighting oppression, fighting authority…” Singhvi too mentioned how Jethmalani’s friendship spanned generations with ease.
On the topic of the day, Salve slammed the media for turning big criminal story coverage into a “circus’’ but also was critical was cops giving out selective leaks to the media. He questioned “court monitored investigations’’ too saying “investigation agency feels it is their moral duty to see that the person against whom media has made its allegation is the culprit.’’
Salve said “the atmosphere today is single biggest impediment in India’s growth story.’’ But he said, “The only way to fix this is not through the government because anything worse than reckless media is a government tamed media.’’
“I don’t think I&B Ministry is the answer don’t think they should have role in content of media,’’ said Salve adding, “The media should be controlled by the courts and courts should lay down laxman Rekha which should not be transgressed.’’ Singhvi said there should be “Chinese walls’’ put in place.
Sundaram, adding a relevant dimension said more than ‘media trial’’ the issue is of ‘pros and cons of increased influence of media in ongoing investigations and trial’. He said why blame only the media, “Public opinion is listening to the fourth estate because of the failure of the other three estates. If there is an institutional failure in India. The public perception shows a lack of faith in police…there is no doubt there are extreme delays in courts…’’
Sundaram said, “while right to freedom of speech is a fundamental right, right to fair trial is an absolute right.’’
Sibal said Ram Jethmalani believed in “rule of law’’ and not in “rule of dictat’’ and had in 2010 said “trial by media amounts to contempt of court.’’ “Nature of medium has changed. In the new media technology plays a great role and its influence is both constructive and destructive,’’ said Sibal saying with social media there is a reincarnation of media as a “public court’’.
In the “second stage’’ when agencies have to investigate, “media should abstain’’ Sibal stressed.
Nariman who sat through-out got the last word. He said he was “enthralled’’ by the discussion and said “perhaps we were too brash in abolishing the jury system. It is jury who represent the people.’’ He suggested that “we should seriously think about whether we should have an independent panel of disinterested people,” because “you cannot prevent people from forming an opinion’’ and “ I don’t think we are in a position to prevent the media from expressing their opinion either.’’

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