NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra today sharply criticised the electronic media during a hearing in the Supreme Court on a defamation suit against the website The Wireover a story on BJP president Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah. “We respect freedom of the press but it has to act responsibly. Electronic media can’t think they become Popes overnight,” he said, asserting that he was speaking in general, not about the case.
The Supreme Court put on hold the defamation case until it takes up the case next on 12 April.
During the hearing, Justice Misra used strong words against the TV media.
“Many in electronic media think they can write anything. Whatever suits your imagination can you write anything and get away? Can some people sit on the pulpit and write anything? Is that journalism?” the Chief Justice said.
He added that while he was all for the freedom of press, “how can anyone start speaking anything about anyone? There are limits. How can you comment on anyone whatever you like?”
The Gujarat High Court had in January rejected the website’s petition asking that the defamation case filed by Jay Shah for its report accusing him of corruption be cancelled. The court said based on initial impression, there was a case against Wire’s reporter and editors. The court held that “the most disturbing part of the article”, which can be “prima facie termed as defamatory”, is linking the rise in Jay’s firm’s turnover with the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.
The Wire had in its article “The Golden Touch of Jay Amit Shah”, alleged that Jay Shah’s company’s turnover grew exponentially after the BJP came to power in 2014. The Wire had said its report is based on documentary evidence and so they cannot be tried for criminal defamation.