The conversation between the bar and the bench cannot be termed ‘the property of the court’. So, the press council’s circular that news on court proceedings cannot be published in the media is unfounded. We believe this is an inadvertent mistake by the press council. The circular was published at a time when the post of the chairman lies vacant.
The tenure of the immediate past chairman Mamtaz Uddin Ahmed, a retired judge of the Appellate Division, ended on 22 August. It is a mystery how a pro-media semi-constitutional body like the press council passes such an order that goes against the spirit of freedom of speech.
The press council says – the conversation between the lawyers and the judges are properties of the court only and that cannot be printed in the newspapers. It is not clear in which context they made the circular public, which makes it even more mysterious. They did mention about a verdict of the High Court but which verdict it was they did not specify.
According to the Article 35 of the constitution, every person has the right to a public trial, which means whatever happens in the court, argument or questions-answers, they cannot be influenced in any way.
This is a property of the people, and not of the court. We need to keep in mind that people are there, seeing, observing and listening to everything.
The judges are accountable to the people, chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain restated in his annual report.
The judges in India have themselves demanded installing CCTVs in the court room, saying that no judge can ask for privacy at the court. US journalists can use audio recorder at the courtroom from decades before.
Judges and attorneys around the world are preparing to telecast the whole court proceedings now. Some may have reservations about it, but it looks like soon this will get implemented.
A few days back the Supreme Court inadvertently stated that the media should not publish news of ongoing cases. However, soon they made a statement saying that the Supreme Court believes in freedom of the media, but they should restrain from publishing news that might influence the proceedings.
However, the press council has in that letter asked the media to not publish news that could be seen as contempt of the Supreme Court or might tarnish the dignity of the judges.
We, however, welcome a few suggestions that statement made, like verifying things with the concerned bench officers and registrars of the High Court and the Appellate Division.
It shows a willingness to prioritise mutual understanding and we believe that is their sole intention.