New Delhi, August 27, 2019: The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed news portal The Wire and its scribes to withdraw their appeal against the Gujarat high court order in a defamation case filed by Jay Shah, son of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, over an article even as it expressed anguish over the way journalism is being practised in the country.
The apex court said the trial against them will be expeditiously completed by the competent court.
Though a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra allowed the withdrawal of appeals pending in the apex court for around one-and-a half year, it expressed anguish over the way journalism is being practised in the country nowadays.
The bench, also comprising justices M R Shah and B R Gavai, said it has become a fashion to serve notice to a person for explanation and even before it can be answered, articles are published within 5-6 hours.
The bench made this remark when senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the portal and its scribes, sought withdrawal of the appeals filed by them.
“We have suffered a lot. It is a very serious issue,” it told Sibal.
The bench repeatedly observed that news portals give a notice of only 4-5 hours and then without waiting any further, they publish the damaging articles.
“The institution has suffered. We have suffered. What is this kind of journalism. Why we should not take the issue suo motu and settle it,” the bench said in an apparent reference to the articles published by news portals in connection with the judiciary and judges.
The bench said it is very unfortunate that after the matter is pending for such a long time, it is being withdrawn.
Sibal said there is no doubt that such things are taking place and it is a matter of worry.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was in agreement with the bench that a short notice should not be the criteria for making publications against a person.
While the heated exchange of words was taking place between the judges, lawyers for The Wire and Shah’s counsel, the bench said that with such kind of journalism damage has already been done to the institution.
What kind of journalism is this, the bench said, adding that publishers and portals should not make the allegations public within a short hour after sending the notice.
“Freedom of press is supreme but it can’t be one-way traffic,” the bench said adding, “Yellow journalism should not take place”.
Mehta said it would be an understatement to say what the news portals are doing is yellow journalism.
After making strong observations against the news portal and its scribes which do not give adequate time to concerned persons to respond to their notice, the bench allowed the withdrawal of appeals filed by The Wire and its journalists.
Shah’s complaint was filed against journalist Rohini Singh, founding editors of the news portal Siddharth Varadarajan, Siddharth Bhatia and M K Venu, managing editor Monobina Gupta, public editor Pamela Philipose as also the Foundation for Independent Journalism, which publishes The Wire.
Jay Shah had moved the lower court alleging defamation by the petitioners after the article claimed that his company’s turnover grew exponentially after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government came to power at the Centre in 2014.
In April last year, the apex court had said that “there cannot be gagging of the press” and asked Jay Shah and the news portal to settle the civil defamation suit.
The high court, in February last year, had allowed the appeal filed by Jay Shah against a lower court order, which had partly lifted the injunction against the news portal while restraining it from linking the article to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.