- Four Journalists Nupur Thapliyal, Sparsh Upadhyay, Areeb Uddin Ahmed, and Rahul Dubey had challenged the High Court of Madhya Pradesh Video Conferencing and Audio-Visual Electronic Linkage Rules, 2020.
- The Video Conferencing rules were challenged because media personnel was excluded from the proceedings because they weren’t ‘required persons’.
- The Madhya Pradesh High Court Division Bench of Hon’ble Justices Prakash Srivastava and Virendra Singh on Wednesday held that the media persons’ right to report cannot be disputed and reserved its order in the plea seeking interim relief to allow live reporting of the court proceedings by the journalists.
- The Hon’ble Court said that it will consider the interim prayers of the petitioners.
Submissions of the Petitioners
- When the Court asked why the issue cannot be referred to a committee which can decide the validity of these rules, Senior Counsel Nidhesh Gupta on behalf of the petitioners submitted that if a rule is challenged in a court proceeding, then the correctness of the said rule should be decided in the court proceeding itself. He further added that referring the issue to a committee will be an abdication of the judicial function.
- The Counsel elaborated how different High Courts have given access to the Court proceedings to the Journalists.
- The Counsel further submitted that the Journalists have just a small request – to allow them to watch the court proceedings.
- He further submitted that the right of media to report judgments as well as judicial proceedings is an integral part of Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.
- The Counsel also said that one cannot have a right to privacy in an open court.
Submissions of the Respondent
- Senior Advocate Aditya Adhikari, on behalf of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, objected to the interim prayer of the petitioners. He contended that someone who is not a party to the case, should not be allowed to take part in the Court proceedings.
- Mr. Adhikari argued that doing such a thing will cause chaos. He cited the recent Juhi Chawla case in Delhi High Court wherein the hearing was disturbed by a person singing songs from Ms. Chawla’s films.
- Advocate Sunil Kumar appearing for the intervener argued against giving media the access to court proceedings. He submitted that certain remarks should not be published by the media. He further held that participation in court proceedings is not a fundamental right but a legal right.
Rebuttals by the Petitioner
- The Counsel for the petitioner agreed that incidences like the Juhi Chawla case might happen but one cannot take away a fundamental right. He rebutted that it is wrong to say that the media’s right to report is not a statutory right.
- He also submitted that live text-based reporting is permitted by the Supreme Court and every High Court provides the links to the journalists, why is Madhya Pradesh High Court an exception?
- He further added that the privacy argument is irrelevant in open court proceedings. If the case is about matrimony, child abuse, or sexual offences, the court can decide against providing the link to the journalists. But otherwise, privacy has nothing to do in the matter.
High Court’s Remarks
- The Court remarked that a system should be evolved where the Court proceedings are not disturbed and there is transparency for the public to see the system as well.
- The Court also said that the E-committee’s meeting will be done in a while and that this petition will be represented before the committee.
- The Court also said that it is in favor of transparency and if the impugned rule 16 of the Video Conferencing rules need to be modified, the committee will make a decision accordingly.
- The Order on the issue of interim relief by the petitioners has been reserved.
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