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An estimated 6-minute read
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We all know that on various occasions The Times Group have given unconditional apologies for their obnoxious reporting. Some politicians, actresses, and in fact, to some extent, civilians were forcibly thrown into the abysmal of negative publicity because of the sexist, prejudiced, biased and fabricating reporting of TOI. Turns out that TOI and Times Group were propelled to give an unconditional apology for such reporting.

Please see the following links for authenticity:

https://polityinindia.wordpress.com/tag/criminal-defamation-in-india/

http://www.thelotpot.com/hilarious-times-india-spit-lick-moments-list-top-10-apology-letters/

http://thewire.in/2016/02/20/times-nows-first-denies-airing-doctored-video-then-concedes-it-did-22148/

http://www.firstpost.com/india/times-now-told-to-apologise-for-jasleen-kaur-story-all-media-houses-should-take-note-2677810.html

http://www.india.com/news/india/subramanian-swamy-seeks-rs-1-crore-damage-apology-from-times-of-india-233740/

http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2014/09/deepika-padukone-times-of-india/

https://www.reddit.com/r/india/comments/3icgdg/what_is_wrong_with_times_now_and_this_reporter/

But this post is something very different, as it is against the bluntly black-listing the Hon’ble Indian Judiciary. The Indian Judiciary is vexed by such unprofessional, non-diligent, prejudiced and biased reporting by TOI. Their latest stunt is a good example. The ‘honourable’ TOI posted an article on 17.05.2016 at 12:24 AM titled “Litigant complaints to CJI about ‘tardy disposal’ by HC judge”. Mind you there is a good emphasis placed on the words ‘tardy disposal’.

(Link: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Litigant-complains-to-CJI-about-tardy-disposal-by-HC-judge/articleshow/52300460.cms )

Some relevant extracts of above TOI article are hereunder:

“Her Lordship sits in court for hardly one hour a day and that too is spent on giving public lecture to lawyers and litigants as to how she is busy with administrative work. Her disposals are lowest by any judge of HC since she became a judge, but of late her performance has sunk so low that I am constrained to write this letter,” Prashad wrote. Referring to “all and sundry conferences” attended by Justice Mittal, he urged CJI Thakur to intervene and ensure that she “sits in court for the full duration of five hours.”

“The letter says that in the month of January 2016, the bench presided by her disposed of only nine matters. “Two were dismissed as withdrawn, two others were disposed of by a common judgment and three others by a judgment each and two more by orders. The four judgments she wrote are of 10, 4, 11 and 33 pages. Two matters disposed of by orders are in 2 and 3 pages respectively. In the whole month she dictated only 63 pages.”

The letter then refers to February 2016 claiming it shows only 7 disposals, 5 by judgements and 2 by orders. The 5 judgments and 1 order she has authored in February 2016, totals only 48 pages.”

“TOI has verified from the HC website that the numbers cited are accurate. According to the last figures made public by Delhi HC in its annual report in 2013, an average of 65 cases are listed per day before each bench and average disposal per day by a judge is 98.”

Now, consider one simple example of a normal conversation between two people, one of whom is oppressed with some dispute, it goes like this:

Person 1: “My property is trespassed, some burglars entered and there took over the land can you imagine, what I could possibly do!!”

Person 2: “You must approach the police, get them out of there, alternatively you can also take assistance of COURT.”

As soon as Person 1 listens to the term ‘COURT’, his ears prick up, eyes goggle with bewilderment and Person 2 is in askance and makes a ‘puppy-face’ because he is not able to understand what wrong he suggested to Person 1. With that reaction Person 1 laments, he goes on to re-iterate the article of TOI mischievously titled as “Litigant complaints to CJI about ‘tardy disposal’ by HC judge” on 17th of May 2016.

With a ruthlessly aggressive voice Person 1 responds: “The Courts are no good as well, just go and read the article regarding a High Court judge, read the contents. It must be appropriate as it is published by nationally run Newspaper, they must have researched thoroughly and then gave the permission to publish the article. The article is a shriek and cry of a Litigant because of non-pro-active approach of the Courts, and you want me to seek help of the same institute?! What kind of a friend are you?!”

The real conversations may not be a small talk like this one, but, one can get the idea of a simple thought which is planted in anyone’s mind while reading the TOI’s article of 17th May.

If I am a layman, and I am given to read one article like this, what would I actually perceive? These are the following:

  1. Judiciary is very lethargic in deciding the fate of any case.
  2. They are very non-considerate towards the litigants who sought for a legal remedy
  3. The judges are not inclined to perform their duty to the fullest.
  4. Most of the time the judges are not taking the litigant’s time seriously as well.
  5. The reader will finally conclude ‘we have a very straight-faced and dispassionate judiciary’ GOD HELD ME.

Publication of such article threatens the independence of the Judiciary. TOI not only mentioned the name of the Hon’ble Judge but also Court’s statistics as to how many judgement had the particular Bench passed in the months of January and February coupled with unnecessarily elaboration on the page numbers of each judgment.

The publication of article is not going well with the eminent legal eagles. They promptly decided to take a stand in favour of the Bench and vehemently showed their resentment and displeasure towards TOI and demanded for an immediate unconditional apology. For reference please have a look at http://barandbench.com/now-senior-advocates-rise-defend-gita-mittal-j-demand-unconditional-apology-toi/ and legally India’s http://www.legallyindia.com/bar-bench-litigation/34-delhi-seniors-find-toi-report-on-delhi-hc-justice-gita-mittal-s-tardy-disposal-rate-appalling-demand-unconditional-prominent-apology

One landmark case, famously known by the name of ‘Wah-India Case’ can be very well relied in the present context. In the case of Shri Surya Prakash Khatri & Anr  vs Smt. Madhu Trehan and Others or ‘Wah-India case’, the respondents  were found guilty of contempt of court for an article which they published rating the High Court’s Judges in terms of various attributes and qualities. The 5 Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court observed that “The freedom is not to be misunderstood as to be a press free to disregard its duty to be responsible. In fact, the element of responsibility must be present in the conscience of the journalists. In an organized society, the rights of the press have to be recognised with its duties and responsibilities towards the society. Public order, decency, morality, and such other things must be safeguarded. The protective cover of press freedom must not be thrown open for wrong doings. If a newspaper publishes what is improper, mischievously false or illegal and abuses its liberty it must be punished by Court of law.”

Please TOI don’t bite off more than you can chew, the legal society is not taking this act of spreading gossip in a sarcastic and casual manner as there is a line that has been crossed. Crossing this line will trigger defamation and most importantly Contempt of Court. You are not new to this either, as Times Now Group was also sued for inadvertently carrying former Supreme Court Justice P.B. Sawant’s photograph as an accused in a provident fund on September 10, 2008. (http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/times-now-defamation-case-rs-100-cr-fine-justice-sawant/1/161563.html).

Therefore, in this latest predicament, by highlighting on ‘tardy disposal’ by HC Judge, you yourself have decided to become a judge by judging the manner in which the particular Court adjudicates a matter. Moreover, the ‘tormented litigant’ also seems to be imaginary. The paragraph stating the attitude of the Judge towards the litigants and advocates is of no factual basis.

Repeated mistake will not lead to an escape route by simply putting up an unconditional apology, but rather will get you to a road that leads to consequences for contempt of court. As rightly observed in Wah India Case by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court, “By attacking the reputation of Judges, the ultimate victim is the institution. The day the consumer of justice lose faith in the institution that would be the darkest day for mankind”. 

Anshumaan Bahadur

New Delhi based lawyer, he can be reached at

 

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