Media Shouldn’t Have Curbs on Reporting: EC ‘Unanimous’ in View
The Commission said its approach on collaboration with media was that of a natural ally and that remained unchanged.
The Election Commission on Wednesday, 5 May, stated that its members were ‘unanimous’ in the view that there shouldn’t be any restriction on media reporting over oral observations made by judges.
Likely responding to a news report by The Indian Express, which highlighted that the poll body was ‘split’ over its view on the Madras High Court censuring it for conducting elections amid an unforgiving COVID-19 surge, the Commission said its approach on collaboration with media is that of a natural ally and remains unchanged.
After the Madras High Court, in an oral observation, had said that the EC “should be booked on murder charges” for “not stopping political parties from wanton abuse of COVID-19 protocols”, the poll body approached the Supreme Court with a Special Leave Petition (SLP).
The Commission also went back to the Madras HC, seeking directions to be issued to the media to restrict their reports to observations recorded in orders or judgments, and refrain from reporting oral statements since the remarks had caused it grave prejudice. This plea wasn’t entertained in the HC.
Responding to the plea, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah in SC had said, “We cannot, in today’s times, say that media will not report the discussions that take place in court.”
According to a senior functionary, the EC had moved the top court against the HC’s oral observations. The functionary said that people could seek action against EC officials based on observations that were not a part of the written order, PTI reported.
The functionary cited a case filed against senior EC officials in West Bengal, following the observations made in the high court.
Upon being asked if there was unanimity in the EC over its appeal to the high court to restrain media from reporting oral observations by the bench, a commission member referred to a part of the press statement, which stated that the EC “always has appropriate deliberations before any decision is taken”.
In light of the poll body saying that it acknowledges that there should be no restriction on media amidst filing an SLP before the SC, the EC’s actions indicate a difference of opinion on the issue.
In its statement, the EC also said, “The Commission very specially recognises 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,” PTI reported.
It added that it was sincerely committed to its faith in free media.
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