Editors Guild voices concern over HC 'gag order' in intern case
The Guild said the order made a 'mockery' of the rule of law and the open and fair justice system by setting 'different and overly restrictive' standards for the coverage of such allegations against judges.
New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India on Friday expressed serious concern over the "gag order" issued by the Delhi High Court that barred publication and telecast of a law intern's complaint of sexual harassment allegations against former Supreme Court judge Swatanter Kumar.
The Guild said the order made a "mockery" of the rule of law and the open and fair justice system by setting "different and overly restrictive" standards for the coverage of such allegations against judges.
The Guild was reacting to the order restraining all newspapers and media organisations from a complete and professional coverage of the sexual harassment allegations against Justice Kumar when he was a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.
"It is strange that a high court should pass such a restraining order in relation to the coverage of the contents of an affidavit submitted to the Chief Justice of India even when the Supreme Court is seized of the matter," the Guild said in a statement.
For prior restraints of this nature, even if temporary, the bar should be high and restraining orders can be passed only if publication would pose a serious threat to national security or would lead to grave prejudice and miscarriage of justice, it said.
Protection from presumed damage to reputation, whether of a judge or any other person, clearly does not warrant prior restraint and would not pass the test of reasonableness under Article 19 (2) of the Constitution. the Guild observed.
In this case, the Guild said protection of reputation is transformed into an issue of fair trial and protection of the judiciary.
"It is stretching things a bit to suggest that the publication of mere allegations against an individual judge would inordinately and unjustifiably damage the image of the judiciary as a whole," the Guild added.
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The matter however, came to light after a group of students protested against the accused teacher inside the school premise. The incident allegedly prompted the counsellor teacher who had talked to the victim previously, to report the matter to police