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SC serves contempt notice on Express & Pioneer [Download order]

Journalists V Judges
Journalists V Judges

The Supreme Court served the newspapers Indian Express and Daily Pioneer with a suo moto contempt notice for allegedly misreporting court proceedings in stories published in the papers today about sitting Supreme Court judge Swatanter Kumar’s recommended appointment to the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

Indian Express correspondent Utkarsh Anand, who had filed the Express article, was also issued notice.

The articles had reported that a bench of the court was surprised by chief justice SH Kapadia’s decision to appoint Kumar to the NGT.

According to the newspapers Kapadia’s decision to appoint a sitting instead of a retired judge to the NGT had not gone down well with the bench.

While the Express had reported the SC as saying that appointing judges to tribunals “raises questions of integrity”, according to Pioneer the court was “surprised” at Kapadia’s choice for the NGT.

The Express report was not available on its website at the time of going to press. Correction: A copy of the Express story is still available online – please see the comments.

According to Pioneer’s report, which is still live, the bench questioned the central government on its lackadaisical administration of the NGT and expressed regret that retired Supreme Court justice RV Raveendran withdrew his consent to head the tribunal after unwarranted delay in his appointment.

The bench of justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhyay heard the matter at 2 PM today, pointing out the factual inaccuracies in the two reports, according to Legally India Supreme Court postcard writer Court Witness.

Court Witness pointed out that even though Kapadia’s decision may have “surprised” many, it did not surprise the judges, “apparently. “It is one thing to say choice is surprising, another to put those words in judges’ mouths,” tweeted the anonymous advocate.

The judges also did not agree with the “angle” of the two reports, which suggested that the judges had questioned the integrity of the appointed judge, whereas they said they had only discussed the institutional integrity of the NGT if the executive was in charge of all of its operational decisions, Court Witness said on Twitter.

Attorney general Goolam Vahanvati and senior advocate PP Rao were amicus curiae in the matter.The court has given time to the newspapers to reply by 30 October.

Times of India also carried a report on Tuesday on the appointment, stating that Kapadia’s decision “has raised eyebrows”, and that “many in the SC circles feel that the CJI should have left the matter for his successor, Justice Altamas Kabir”.

“No journalist can win this...even if he or she reported accurately! Equally, wrong quote deserves reprimand!” tweeted Money Control’s The Firm.

Download the order here

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