Similarly, the members in the media must know that the term 'Trial by Media' is also not quite rational, for the right to try is only vested in the Judiciary and the media can only interpret the trial with logic and wit.
In the background of this concept, a five-day residential training of journalists and legal correspondents began on Sunday at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) Convention Centre.
The training programme is the brainchild of the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Dr. Justice KG Balakrishnan. Taking the cue from him, the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) and IGNOU think-tank has jointly organized the training programme free of cost to journalists and scribes reporting on courts.
The Press Council of India and Editors Guild of India were also roped in association to give the training programme a comprehensive shape, so that the GenNext journalists be able to catch the idea that the Statute-ordained Freedom of Press entails certain degree of responsibility.
The training programme is part of a larger series of workshops which have been organized to stimulate a vigorous dialogue about the role of the mass media in relation to the administration of justice. A few more similar initiatives are in the pipeline soon after at Bhubaneswar, Kochi and Mumbai.
Two more will be organised thereafter, one at Jammu and the other at a centre of North-Eastern part of the country, probably at Shillong or Guwahati.
Inaugurating the 'Five-day Residential Training on Reporting of Court Proceedings by Media and Administration of Justice for Legal Correspondents/Journalists', and addressing the elite gathering of the IGNOU academics and administrators, invitees, trainee scribes and the media-persons gathered there to report the programme, the CJI said, "Often the new members in the media organizations forget this point. The framers of Indian Constitution safeguarded the press freedom mostly on account of their experience of governmental repression during the colonial rule. The importance of Press Freedom was further underscored after the Emergency. However, in the era of liberalization where private players have aggressively entered the market for seeking viewers and readers, the conceptual understanding of Freedom of Press has assumed more dimensions."
The function was presided over by Justice Arijit Pasayat, Supreme Court Judge, while the key-note address was delivered by Justice G.N. Ray, chief of the Press Council of India.
Editors Guild President Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai introduced the concept of the five-day free training programme for the short-listed scribes.
The CJI explained these dimensions as protecting the rights of smaller players in the media, "Especially of those who represent dissenting views", preventing "a race to the bottom in standards of reporting in an intense scenario of competition among media organisations, coverage of sub-judice matters where reporting can be prejudicial to litigant parties, and the role of pervasive tele-cover of situations like the Mumbai mayhem".
Calling upon influential media agencies, the CJI said, "They must promote the best practices for newsgathering and emphasize the importance of maintaining ethical standards for coverage the judicial proceedings."
Congratulating the CJI and the luminaries from the Judiciary, IGNOU Vice Chancellor Professor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai expressed desire to take this training to the grassroots scribes working in remote areas in the country so that they learn the good things about the Judiciary and media responsibilities.
"This was the first of its kind of an initiative taken by any university of the nation," he said, and explained that "it's an opportunity to our upcoming journalists to understand the importance of proper legal reporting. The exercise can be continued in a number of educational institutions of the country. All types of media need development."
However, the media is always quizzed about various judgments of the court of the country and often wonder at which level it should tread to report a court proceeding.
Explaining the media concerns in clear terms, and mentioning the recent Government expression on the Mumbai mayhem, Editors Guild Chief Rajdeep Sardesai said, "Often media find that a lower court's death sentence for an accused is turned into life sentence in the High Court, and in such cases media would find difficulties in reporting, as that might end them up reporting sub-judice matters. We need to address these in this training programme. It is very important for us in media to understand the niceties of legal process."
Stressing that the two powerful links in Democracy - Judiciary and Media - must work naturally complementary to each other, Justice G.N. Ray mentioned what the first CJI Justice Patanjali Shashtri had observed in 1950, "Media must be allowed the freedom to write".
"Lately, certain section in the public and press started disturbing the link between the Judiciary and the Media. This training would try to address what the media need to understand about the nuances of Justice Delivery System. Students will also be taken to the corridors of Delhi High Court and be briefed about various court reports on use of freedom to know the context and consequences", he said.
'Media must show maturity at their court reports'. Stressing this theme, Justice Arijit Pasayat, cited a classic example of distorted report of a court's justice delivery. Justice Pasayat referred to a scribe's understanding of a case of trial of an accused.
The reporter had mentioned that the accused was acquitted, when in reality the court had asked for more details about the charges against him and gave a different date. Asked why this report was published the reporter had replied that he thought of the acquittal because he found the defence lawyer, while coming out of the court, was smiling.
"We expect responsibility at Court Reporting. The term 'Trial by Media' is a misnomer," he said, adding, "The responsibility of trial lies only with the courts. Media can only interpret the merits of the cases and their judgments without suggesting corruption in the judgment."