In today’s world media has a great influence on people. There are many social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Threads, Twitter and many more. Both media and the judiciary are engaged in the same task i.e., to discover truth, to uphold democratic values and to deal with social, political and economic problems.
KEYWORDS: Law, Judges, Media, Citizens, Judiciary
Social media plays a vital role in the judiciary. As it is inimical to the inquiry as it contravenes the rights of the accused to a free trial. At times the accused is presumed guilty by the media even before the trial begins. Media is recognized as the fourth pillar of democracy after legislative, executive and judiciary. It is a source of communication from person to person and forms an integral part of society. To ensure democracy, there is a need for free and independent media. It has both impacts positive as well as negative.
Freedom of thought and expression and freedom of speech in themselves are not only valuable freedoms but on the basis of a democratic form of government which goes on theory to solve the problems in the government, speech is necessary.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND JUDICIARY
Social media has transformed the way society communicates. Change is the only constant and navigating change to add resilience and value to our enduring institutions, like the judiciary, is the need of the hour. Social media has vast technological outreach is a great educational forum to garner knowledge, update skills, and open the mind and heart to the wonders of the world. The social media sites like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Threads, Instagram etc. have revolutionized the way we share information or data, communicate and make decisions. In 2019, India recorded that there are 34.4 million Twitter users and 460 million active internet users.
No one can deny that the reach of social media presents unprecedented opportunities for judges, lawyers, and advocates to stay connected with the community they serve. But there are also risks and challenges inherent in the use of social media by the judiciary which highlights the issues of integrity and ethics. Judges have to be extra vigilant and exercise selective restraint to perform the solemn duty in the “ Temple of Justice”.
As a big support for judicial use of social media is made apparent in the words of Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, as he said that “I am a great supporter of social media and freedom. I know it is empowering. But there is a dangerous trend. Judges must be left completely independent to give judgement as what they think is the correct mode in accordance of the rule of law.”
As this comment refers to the growing tendency among Senior advocates who write articles in national newspapers, which are subsequently shared and commented on via social media, raising doubts about the Supreme Court’s efficacy to deal with a particular case.
Exposure of the citizen’s remarks and sentiments towards a case before trial can have an effect on judges. After all, they are human. Judges also need to be very much aware that it is not just their active use of social media that requires careful consideration they also need to be conscious of what information they have received and by whom.
During the recent controversy over Justice Arun Mishra hearing an appeal of his own judgement, he publicly condemned articles he believed to be sponsored by lobby groups. Judges also need to be very careful about how they are perceived on social media. The often repeated maxim – “Justice should not only be done but also appear to be done,” clearly puts the onus on the judges, on their demeanour, overall communication, social etiquette and conduct. A solemn denial of social media is not feasible but a selective, well-intentioned approach is the need of the hour.
ROLE OF MEDIA IN DELIVERING JUSTICE
There are many cases in which the media has played a wide role in spreading awareness and ensuring justice. In cases like the Jessica Lal murder case and the Priyadarshini Mattoo case, in both of these cases, the media pointed out that justice was delayed and denied. Jessica Lal’s case is a very high–profile murder case. A cruel man who out of nowhere shot an innocent girl who simply refused to serve him a drink of his choice. Media has played a powerful role in this case. Jessica’s case was the beginning of an unbiased media that led a national campaign for justice. As we all know that a coin has always two sides, in a similar manner media has two sides. Media at times exaggerate things and today media is all about its TRP. But in this case, it proved itself as a boon and made us believe in ourselves and our judiciary system. In this case, it took 7 years for the court to conclude that the evidence was refutable and therefore cannot punish Manu Sharma, a politician’s son. The family of Jessica had lost all hope. However, the media took the initiative to get justice for Jessica. They picked up right from the point where the police had left. The cry for justice demanded by the public put pressure on the police, administration, and the government to solve the case quickly. Ultimately the accused, Manu Sharma, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The second high-profile case where credit should be given to the media was the Priyadarshini Mattoo Case. In this case, a 25-year-old law student from Delhi University was raped and then murdered brutally by her senior Santosh Singh, the son of a senior IPS officer in Pondicherry. When after three years of court proceedings, the court acquitted Santosh Singh, it seemed that Priyadarshini Mattoo would never get justice; however, the media initiated a widespread effort to investigate journalism to find out the loopholes in the police investigation, and it was ultimately due to their effort that CBI was able to arrest the culprits. In such cases, responsible media contributed to the cause of justice; media have shown that responsible media can play a positive role in society and contribute to the cause of justice.
ROLE OF MEDIA IN NEGATIVE FORM
Till now the media has not been given the power to try a case. As earlier said that there are two sides to every coin, and so is the case with media trials and journalism. The media already decides the image of the accused in a pre–decided motion, which might affect the trial.
In the Sheena Bora murder case, the personal life of the accused, Indrani Mukherjea, was thrown open to the eyes of the public by the media. It was debated and judged by many ‘experts’. Indrani Mukherjea and her first husband, Sanjeev Khanna, were accused of murdering their daughter Sheena Bora. She was killed in 2012, and the case came to light in 2015 after a confession from their driver. It caused a huge furore and debate on various channels and was highly debated.
In another case of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who died of suicide, his girlfriend and actress Rhea Chakraborty’s life was turned upside down by the media. It was alleged that she had a role to play in his suicide, and the whole death was murder, not suicide. There were allegations of tampering with the scene, and she with his brother was sent to jail. The media was criticized for painting a negative picture of the actress without valid ‘proof’ solely based on their judgement.
So, as we have seen the media has both positive and negative roles. Last but not least protect your own personal data, educate your family and friends, and use social media to educate people and yourself. Therefore, it has been shown that social media plays a vital role in the judiciary.