Speaking at an academic event in a lecture titled 'Life of a Judge' in Jharkhand's Ranchi on Saturday, 23 July, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana remarked on the state of the media in the country.
Speaking about his background, growth, and hardships endured on the path to becoming a judge, he began by saying how judges missed out "on the many joys of our lives."
He then expressed his concern regarding the backlog of cases, and called for an overhaul in the "already fragile judicial infrastructure," adding that it was becoming increasingly challenging to mete out justice.
"At times, there are also concerted campaigns in media, particularly on social media, against judges. Another aspect which affects the fair functioning and independence of judiciary is the rising number of media trials," he said.
The CJI noted that new media tools had an "enormous amplifying ability," but seemed to be incapable of differentiating between "the right and the wrong, the good and the bad, and the real and the fake."
"Media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases. Of late, we see media running kangaroo courts, at times on issues even experienced judges find difficult to decide. Ill-informed and agenda-driven debates on issues involving justice delivery are proving to be detrimental to the health of democracy."CJI NV Ramana at Ranchi
Stating that biased views presented and propagated by the media were affecting people, "weakening democracy, and harming the system," Justice Ramana said that these actions were adversely affecting justice delivery. He said that while print media still had a "certain degree of accountability," electronic media had none. "Still worse is social media," he added.
"By overstepping and breaching your responsibility, you are taking our democracy two steps backwards," CJI Ramana remarked.
Highlighting the need for stricter media regulations and accountability, the Chief Justice said it was best for the media to "self regulate and measure their words."
He advised the media not to overstep and "invite interference from the government or from the courts."
"I urge upon the media, particularly the electronic and social media, to behave responsibly. You are as important a stakeholder as we are. Please use the power of your voice to educate the people and to energise the nation in our collective endeavour to build a progressive, prosperous, and peaceful India."CJI NV Ramana at Ranchi
Ramana told the audience that the absence of an immediate reaction from judges should not be mistaken as "weakness or helplessness."
He then went on to speak about how, for a "vibrant democracy," it was necessary to strengthen and empower the judiciary. The CJI also laid emphasis that after serving for decades on the bench, a judge who puts hardened criminals behind bars loses any and all protection that they get during their tenure.
"To do complete justice, a good judge needs to be aware about the practical outcome of his decisions," he stated, adding that only a flourishing and vibrant democracy could lead the country "on the path of peace, progress, and global leadership," which a strong judiciary would be the ultimate guarantee for.