Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
“The story was based on facts and I stand by it”.
This is how Dhanajay Mahapatra of Times of India has reacted to an intimidating letter sent to the paper by Justice Gyan Sudha Misra of the Supreme Court of India in reaction to his byline in the same paper that reported how lawyers and litigants are disadvantaged by habitual late-coming of judges to the court.
“Chief Justice of India (CJI) Altamas Kabir, who sits in court no. 1, is usually late to the court every day and the bench headed by him seldom commences judicial work at scheduled 10.30 am. But, Justice Gyan Sudha Misra appears to be setting a record of her own in coming late to the court. During normal working days, she too comes late to the court. But, during the ongoing summer vacation, punctuality in the SC appears to have lost its meaning as the bench headed by her, which was sitting from May 30 to June 14, assembled at least 60 minutes late on every working day”, he has reported.
Reacting to this report, Justice Mishra has disparaged him with abusive words like “small-minded” and “irresponsible”, who “perhaps” works “at the behest of a motivated lobby”.
She has told Times of India, “I have been instructed to communicate to you that your newspaper and your Sr. Editor/Reporter Mr. Dhananjay Mahapatra have once again indulged in irresponsible and contemptuous reporting by getting the news story published in all the daily editions (15th June 2013) of the Times of India relating to Court timings of the Vacation Bench obviously to hog limelight denigrating the image of the Institution.
Your report clearly reflects that small-minded people neither have the vision nor the understanding to appreciate a larger issue in the functioning of an Institution but have the audacity to publish mischievous reports as per their perception without disclosing full facts perhaps at the behest of a motivated lobby which needs to be investigated. Fortunately, wide and wiser section of the media do not follow your special trait”.
When judges come such late to the court and the lawyer and litigants spend their time waiting for their cases to be taken up, and when it frequently happens, the Press is expected not to keep its eyes close. The people have a right to be informed. So, Sri Mahapatra has done what his profession entails. The people must be made aware of whether or not the institutes of immense public importance function as programed.
Indians are absolutely worried over delays in justice, and therefore, every reason of delay is to be located and discussed in public.
The parliamentary forum is not properly functioning, the people know.
They have watched how the Judicial Standards & Accountability Bill is made to limp for years, when evidently corrupt judges are escaping punishment by using their agents placed in material positions, as witnessed in the case of Justice S. Sen of Kolkata High Court, who even could sabotage the Parliament’s business of impeaching him for his malpractice and misconduct by using the then President of India, Prativa Patil.
As long as criminals are able to use judiciary to keep allegations against them undecided and thereby hoodwinking the election laws occupy parliamentary seats, the corrupt and condemnable judges will never be impeached.
In such circumstances, Press is to be more vigilant about the activities of judges as the judiciary is the last hope for the people whose leaders have sabotaged them and changed their democracy to plutocracy with the help of the executive.
It is now incumbent upon the Press to speak loudly about judges who err so that the judiciary can get necessary input to usher in correction and the people can come to cogitate on how to build up the environment of judicial accountability.
Therefore, reporting facts that need be reported to help judiciary know where improvement is required cannot be considered contemptuous to judiciary. And, if a journalist, that too a journalist of national repute like Sri Mahapatra, has reported on the impact of the habitual delay in Supreme Court judges’ coming to the Court, why should he be abused by the concerned judges with filthy terms like “small-minded people”?
Is it proper for a reported Supreme Court Judge to hurl such abusive words at the Reporter?