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Madhya Pradesh High Court Grants Interim Relief to Journalists, Court Room Exchange

Madhya Pradesh High Court Grants Interim Relief to Journalists, Court Room Exchange

Madhya Pradesh High Court while reserving an order on interim relief, on a plea moved by 4 Journalists seeking High Court’s permission for Live Reporting of Court’s proceedings, stated that it is undisputed that the Journalists have a right to report and access the court proceedings going live. 

A division bench of Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Virender Singh orally observed that the Right to Live Reporting of court proceedings cannot be disputed, however, the bench highlighted that the matter could be sent to the E-Committee as a representation of the Journalists so that it could take concrete decision on this matter.

The petitioners, Nupur Thapliyal (Legal Correspondent, Live Law), Sparsh Upadhyay (Special Legal Correspondent, Live Law), Areeb Uddin Ahmed (Legal Correspondent, Bar and Bench), and Rahul Dubey (Legal Correspondent, Dainik Bhaskar), were represented by Senior Advocate Mr. Nidhesh Gupta who was assisted by Advocate Manu Maheshwari. Senior Counsel, Mr. Aditya Adhikari had appeared for the High Court of Madhya Pradesh which is the respondent.

Courtroom Exchange:

Justice Prakash Shrivastava: The E-committee of the High Court is actively considering the aspect of Live Reporting and once the live streaming starts then the journalists, litigants and everybody would have easy access to the Court's proceedings. Therefore, let the E-committee take the decision, which is in the process of doing and evolving a mechanism.

Sr. Advocate Nidhesh Gupta: The whole issue is about the arrangement in the interregnum. Live-streaming of all the Courts for the journalists and the litigants to attend may take a while or maybe a much longer time, so, on the meanwhile, the journalists must be permitted to attend the live hearings of the Courtroom proceedings in the matters they want to attend.

He also submitted that it is a question of rights under Article 19(1)(a) and that Live-streaming is an entirely different issue from the right of journalists to access live proceedings and to report them on a real-time basis and the two be not confused by the Court.

Justice Prakash Shrivastava: Tell us where is this right expressly provided to the journalists under the Constitution, the Judgment of Swapnil Tripathi is about live-streaming and in so far as access to journalists is concerned, the E-committee is in the process of revising the Rules. You will have to make out an immediate case of denial of the fundamental right to report to the journalists for claiming interim.

Sr. Advocate Nidhesh Gupta: The Supreme Court in the Chief Election Commissioner Case, in a Bench led by Justice Chandrachud, has clearly held that the journalists have a right to report even dialogues, discussions, oral observations of the Bench as they constitute part of the 'Court Proceedings’ and resultantly, are covered within the ambit of freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a).

Justice Prakash Shrivastava: This Writ Petition can be treated as a representation to the E-committee and the E-committee will decide appropriately after considering the grounds in the Writ Petition. After all, even the Supreme Court has also said that the E-committee must take an expeditious decision.

Sr. Advocate Nidhesh Gupta: It would be a complete abdication of duty on the Court's part if in judicial proceedings a rule is being challenged and the High Court refers it to the administrative side to be decided by some Committee.

Arguments made by High Court’s Counsel:

  • The Writ Petition is premature as it has been filed, when the E-committee is yet to take decision on these aspects. The E-committee of the High Court is considering and delving into the issues of live-streaming and providing access to litigants and other parties who are interested.
  • rules which are challenged under Video Conferencing Rules stand and through an interim order their operation cannot be stayed. The granting of interim relief would tantamount to granting the final relief, and therefore interim relief cannot be granted as asked for.
  • preparations for live streaming are being made. It will create extreme difficulties for the whole institution and will in the long run lead to a chaotic situation for the Courts and Judges. Transparency has its own limits and the proceedings cannot be thrown open to each and every journalist or stranger to the proceedings to come and watch anything and everything.
  • The view of the Supreme Court as argued by the petitioners cannot be treated as generic and it is fact-specific limited to the facts of the case in a particular matter. It cannot be generalized to include all and every proceeding, randomly.

Sr. Advocate Nidhesh Gupta’s response:

  • He argued that Section 327 CrPC and 153 (B) CPC clearly mandate the Court proceedings to be open and that the Video Conferencing Rules cannot come in the way to defeat the purpose and objectives of these provisions and make virtual Courts opaque.
  • Importantly, Mr. Gupta remarked that the matter has been circulating throughout on social media & widely reported and even all the Judges and Advocates know about these proceedings. The High Court should behave like a model litigant having responded timely.

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