Media Debating On Pending Cases is contempt of the court: Attorney General

Media Debating On Pending Cases is contempt of the court: Attorney General


  • Venugopal said, commenting on pending cases affecting the judge and the outcome of the case, next hearing deferred to November 4
  • KK Venugopal made critical remarks in a 2009 contempt case against lawyer Prashant Bhushan

On October 13, Media reporting in cases pending before the Supreme Court is completely forbidden and is contempt of court. Attorney General KK Venugopal made this important comment on Tuesday during a hearing in the 2009 contempt case against senior advocate Prashant Bhushan before a bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar.

Read SC’s Verdict for Prashant Bhushan Suppression for Free Speech

KK Venugopal said, commenting on pending cases is in a sense influencing the judge and the outcome of the case. The bench deferred the hearing of the case till November 4 and urged senior counsel Harish Salve to help the court on the next date. Salve played the role of amicus curiae in this action initiated in 2009.

In a video conferencing hearing before a bench of Justices Khanwilkar, Justice BR Gavai, and Justice Krishna Murari, Venugopal said, the apex court has already stated that any such attempt falls under the category of contempt of court. Expressing concern over the current state of the media, he requested the court to intervene in the role of the media. 

Read Prashant Bhushan pays Re 1 as fine: Acc to Supreme Court orders

“The print and electronic media are commenting on pending cases which have an impact on the outcome of these cases,” Venugopal said. This practice is very dangerous.

The Attorney General also said, whenever the bail petition is heard, the debate starts on TV channels, which puts the accused at risk of harm. Referring to the case of Rafale fighter jets, he said that on the day of the hearing, big articles were published in the media based on some part of the documents. He said this issue should also be considered while hearing on the issue of freedom of expression and publication.

Senior advocate Rajiv Dhawan, appearing for Prashant Bhushan, opposed efforts to widen the scope of the case. Whereas, Kapil Sibal, appearing for Tehelka’s former editor Tarun Tejpal, agreed that the contempt of court case should be looked into in view of the existing system of communication.

In an interview with Tehelka magazine in 2009, advocate Prashant Bhushan had accused eight of the 16 former chief judges of corruption. In November 2009, the court issued notices to Bhushan and Tehelka magazine editor Tarun Tejpal.

On 17 August, a bench headed by then-Supreme Court Judge Arun Mishra prepared three questions of law for consideration in the matter.

1) If public statements can be made about the corruption of judges, under what circumstances and on what basis can they be given, and what should be seen in relation to security measures, if any?

2) What procedure should be followed to complain in such cases when the charge is about the conduct of the judge? 

3) Can any allegations of corruption, against a retired judge, be made public, shaking the confidence of the general public in the judiciary, and will the conduct be punishable under the Contempt of Court Act?

At the same time, Prashant Bhushan also presented ten additional questions of the law, which the bench agreed to consider. After the retirement of Justice Arun Mishra on September 2, the matter was listed before a bench headed by Justice Khanwilkar.

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