Judging is ‘under stress’ in digital era: Justice A K Sikri

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Feb 2019 09:18:54



JUDGING is ‘under stress’ in the digital era, a Supreme Court judge said on Sunday, lamenting that even before a case is taken up by the court, people start discussing on social media what the outcome ‘should be’ which has an influence on the judges. Talking on ‘Freedom of press in the digital age’ at the first Law Association For Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA) conference here, Justice A K Sikri said the freedom of press is changing the paradigm of civil and human rights and the current pattern of media trials is an example of it.

“Media trials were there earlier also. But today what is happening is that when an issue is raised, a petition is filed, (and) even before it is taken up by the court, people start discussing what should be the outcome. Not what ‘is’ the outcome, (but) what ‘should be’ the outcome. And let me tell you from my experience here that it has an influence on how a judge decides a case.

“It is not so much in the Supreme Court because by the time they come to the apex court they are quite matured and they know how the case is to be decided on the basis of law irrespective of what is happening in the media. Today judging is under stress,” Justice Sikri said. He said the power of contempt of court is not being used that much. “Few years ago, it has always been an opinion that once a judgment was rendered by the court, be it the SC, HCs or any trial court, you have every right to criticize the judgement. Now there is slander or defamatory speeches even against judges who gave that judgment. And still not much is said on this,” Justice Sikri said.

Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Goradia Divan, one of the speakers at the conference, also expressed her concurring views and said that on social media, there is a huge blur between news and fake news, news and opinion, citizens and journalists.

Divan said one of the challenges was that with the growth of Twitter, lawyers have become activists too. And in that quest for activism and stardom, she added, one should not eclipse one’s professional duties as the casualty would be independence of the judiciary and matters would be decided for the ‘wrong’ reasons.