The public has the right to know the discussions between the bar and the bench that happen during the course of a hearing and the request to stop that is far-fetched, the Supreme Court told the Election Commission of India.
The top court said this while hearing a plea moved by the commission against the observations made by the Madras High Court. Last month, the high court had observed that the commission was singularly responsible for the second wave of Covid-19 and should probably be booked for murder. The observations were not part of the final order of the high court.
Arguing for the Election Commission, Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi told the top court that the commission was castigated without even being given an opportunity to present its side. Dwivedi also told the court that despite a large number of staff themselves testing positive, the commission ensured that the elections were successfully conducted.
The hearing saw a discussion on the importance of the right of the public to know the court’s proceedings as well as the nature of the observations that judges make from time to time.
The top court explained to Dwivedi that it cannot ask the media to not report the observations and discussions. There is a vital public interest to know the process that goes on before the court comes to a final judgment, the bench said.
Justice MR Shah also suggested to the commission that it must take the observations as a bitter pill. The bench pointed out to the counsels that at times, judges make some harsh observations but those are in larger public interest and intended to ensure that their orders are complied with.
Justice Chandrachud said the top court will take the arguments of the Election Commission in consideration while making the final order but made it clear that it does not intend to demoralise the high courts.
“We have to make sure that the high court judges and the chief justices are independent to express their views and that the media fully reports on the court proceedings,” observed the bench.
The commission maintained that in this instance, the high court had not just made observations but conclusions without giving it a chance to respond and that there needs to be a balance.
The court has reserved its order on the commission’s plea against the high court’s observations. The bench is likely to pronounce the order on Thursday.