‘Internet has revolutionised courtroom reporting’ – India’s Supreme Court quashes Election Commission’s plea against Madras High Court

‘Internet has revolutionised courtroom reporting’ – India’s Supreme Court quashes Election Commission’s plea against Madras High Court
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  • The top court rejected a plea made by the Election Commission against the media coverage of courtroom proceedings in a hearing in the Madras High Court.
  • The Madras High Court had remarked that it should probably put murder charges on the EC for not ensuring COVID-19 compliance during the election campaigns.
  • The SC today said that with the advent of technology, there are real time updates from a courtroom as a part of freedom of speech and expression of the press.
India’s Supreme Court today upheld freedom of press, as it rejected a plea made by the Election Commission of India (ECI) against the media coverage of courtroom proceedings in a hearing in the Madras High Court.

“The Internet has revolutionised courtroom reporting. There should not be a good enough reason for courts to engage with evolving technology,” said Justice DY Chandrachud, who pronounced the hearing along with Justice MR Shah.
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Chandrachud further said that with the advent of technology, there are real time updates from a courtroom as a part of freedom of speech and expression of the press. He called it an extension of open court. “...open access to court is the cornerstone of constitutional freedom,” he said.

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The ECI had moved the plea in the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court, which had called out the elections held in the country during a cruel second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Madras High Court had remarked that it should probably put murder charges on the EC for not ensuring COVID-19 compliance during the election campaigns.

Even while Chandrachud acknowledged that remarks made in the Madras High Court were harsh, remarks during an order are not a part of the judgement.

“A degree of caution and restraint on part of the High Court would have allayed these proceedings. Oral remarks are not part of the order and hence there is no question of expungement,” he said.

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On Wednesday evening, the ECI had clarified that it did not stand against the freedom of press. “The Commission very specially recognises the media's role in enhancing effectiveness of election management and in reinforcing transparency from the very beginning of the election process till the end, including transparent coverage during all processes, campaigning and from polling station level to counting. ECI’s approach on the collaboration with the media is that of a natural ally and remains unchanged,” said a statement from the ECI.

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