Media can’t name judges, lawyers in Tamil Nadu

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New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) The media – both print and electronic – in Tamil Nadu are in quandary whether they can carry names of judges and lawyers in cases after the Supreme Court dismissed a petition by a lawyer against whom the Madras High Court had ordered an inquiry by the State Bar Council.

The high court order also bars media from naming lawyers and judges in their reports.

The situation arose after the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Prafulla C. Pant dismissed lawyer S. Bhaskar Mathuram’s petition challenging the August 22 order of the Madras High Court’s Madurai bench directing inquiry against him by the State Bar Council.

Dismissing Mathuram’s plea, the bench said: “We do not find any legal and valid ground for interference. The special leave petitions are dismissed.”

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The matter relates to an “unfortunate incident” which is alleged to have taken place on August 5 in some remote area of Madurai wherein on a false complaint, an FIR was registered against children belonging to deprived section of the society. Mathuram had moved the high court seeking direction for the quashing of the FIR and consequent action.

However, what is troubling the media houses is that the high court’s August 22 order also bars the media reporting the names of the lawyers and judges in their court stories as it categorically says that media – both print and electronic – would not carry the names of the lawyers.

It also “requests” the media to avoid carrying the names of judges unless it was very essential.

The court barred the media from carrying the names of the lawyers as it observed that “publication of names of practitioners who may have appeared for one party or the other in a particular case can lead to an indirect method of soliciting or indulging in advertisement of the professional abilities or skills of the advocates”.

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It directed its registrar (administration) of Madurai bench “to immediately circulate instructions to all print, electronic and media houses not to publish the names of the practitioners as part of news item”.

“We also direct, for the present, the registrar (Administration) to request the print, electronic and media house, not to publish the individual names of the judges unless it is so essentially required.”

For this, it reasoned that every high court judge “is carrying on with his work sitting in a particular division/roster as assigned” by the Chief Justice.

“The judges do perform their duties dispassionately and to the extent possible by not allowing their individual notions and philosophies to be a guiding factor in deciding the causes brought before them. Therefore, we feel that the names of the judges should not be published and on the other hand, the name of the High Court alone should be published,” said the August 22 order of the Madurai bench of Madras High Court.

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A senior Supreme Court lawyer told IANS that as of now this order would apply to the media in the state.

However, he said that the media house can move the high court seeking its review on the grounds that it was passed without hearing them. But till the time it is reviewed, the August 22 order would apply to media.



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