Are Journalists Above Law?

Shared lineage, heritage, possessions, religion, scriptures, faiths, beliefs, customs, social behaviour, language, literature, and cuisines interconnect people. These elements of bonding therefore are sources for an individual’s pride and vanity.  Essence of decorum of a civilised society is both tolerance and vanity of people. Any act including a threat to commit that act, which hurts the vanity of an individual is as serious as outraging the modesty of a woman. While free speech is a virtue of a tolerant society, hurting the vanity of someone under the pretext of free speech is anarchy. Physical wounds may heal but hurt caused to vanity is rarely forgotten or forgiven.

Synchronous or asynchronous utterances in media of all kinds and public gatherings need to be within reasonable restraints so as not to hurt the vanity of anyone.

The rights (a) to freedom of speech and expression (b) to assemble peaceably and without arms (c) to form associations or unions (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India and (f) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business, all are subject to restraints imposed for preventing anarchy.

“I think, first of all, in any place around the world, it is very important that people be allowed to express themselves freely, journalists be allowed to express themselves freely and without the threat of any harassment,” Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, said. (Quoted from https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/journalists-should-not-be-jailed-for-what-they-write-tweet-and-say-un-spokesperson-on-zubairs-arrest/2576406/). He is wrong in advocating that the journalists are more than equal when it comes to legal, moral, social and cultural restraints.

Whenever a politician, journalist, lawyer, Chartered Accountant, Doctor or other professional is summoned by the law enforcement agencies for questioning, or detained by the Police for any inquiry, the representative clan and some of the non-representative elements of the so called civil society start making loud noises alleging falsehood and malice. While the officials unfailingly but eagerly apply their rules but rarely apply their minds, there are others in the government who rarely care for rules but aggressively apply their minds. Minds can be prejudicial. That investigators exceed their remit in the pursuit of justice or the orders of their masters is not an impossibility, but who are we to judge?

Are we willing to wait for the evidence to be presented before the judges and let the judge pass the verdict or are we going to initiate a parallel trial on social media sites and TV shows and Twitter? Are we going to support a system in which thousands of amateur judges oversee parallel trials and pronounce verdict months and even years before the real judges catch up?

Whatever the truth, most of us are not legal experts and it is beyond us to debate whether the process is fair or not. What we can and should debate is how ready we are to believe that every man and woman is fallible irrespective of his or her credentials. Are we ready to stop putting the suspect and the accused on a pedestal? Are we willing to suspend the purposive disparaging of the system of law by lobbyists?

*****

Published by

Mukul Gupta

*Educator, researcher, author and a friendly contrarian* Professor@MDIGurgaon

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