From the latest reports available, it appears the Supreme Court has pronounced its verdict on the issue of framing of guidelines for reportage of sub-judice matters (Readers may note that I had written on this issue just a few days ago). The decision was delivered in a petition in which Sahara alleged that certain documents relating to a pending legal proceeding between Sahara and SEBI was leaked to the media.
In February 2012, the Supreme Court had hauled up SEBI for leaking to the media details of Sahara’s proposal enumerating collaterals to secure investors’ interest. In February, the following was reportedly the Court’s observation:
"We are distressed to note that even 'without prejudice' proposals sent by counsel for the appellants (Sahara) to the counsel for SEBI, has come on one of the TV channels. Such incidents are increasing by the day. Such reporting not only affect the business sentiments but also interfere in the administration of justice," a bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said.
Today, in its judgment, the SC has observed that norms and guidelines regarding reportage of sub-judice matters cannot be made across the board. Further, it held that there can be no guidelines for matters that are sub-judice.
Further, the Court said that restrictions relating to sub-judice matters must be made on a case-to-case basis. The Court apparently has cautioned journalists that they should know the “Lakshman rekha” so that they don't cross the line of contempt.
According to the Court, freedom of speech and expression is not an absolute right under the Indian Constitution and that the doctrine of postponement of reporting has been evolved as a preventive measure, and not as a prohibitive and punitive measure. Critically, the Court observed that the restriction on publication of court proceedings is with a view to protect public interest.
I will discuss this judgment as and when I have a copy of it.