A Tribunal Needs to be Set up to try Defamation Cases on Media”: Harish Salve

Renowned lawyer, Harish Salve began his session by remembering fondly- his senior colleague- Mr Ram Jethmalani. He said that calling Ram an ace criminal law only means calling him his right better half. He said Ram’s capacity to make complex problems simple, was one of his great attributes.

Salve expressed his views on what is the state of disrepair of rule of law in India and how has the media generously contributed to the state of disrepair. Salve said the problem arises when the media becomes a parallel system of rule of noise. And where the rule of noise starts displacing the rule of law Indian criminal justice system in high profile cases has become a circus. Our agencies in a large number of cases are unable to probe so trial by a court of law. He said Sibal rightly pointed out that the media does not believe in any such thing called the law of evidence. The system governed by the rule of law by a judge authorized by the state has been replaced by a trial of embarrassment by the media.

Salve also pointed out that reputations in India don't matter, privacy is a virtue we scorn all in the name of transparency. He said this system has to be contained if India has to become a serious Republic. High profile cases in countries like the US, UK see the measured response, media in India should learn how a BBC or a CNN covers sensational cases. In India, nobody is willing to have a hard look as to what ails our system. He cited an example that in 2 G case, chairman of a large group of companies was treated like a common criminal. He said trial by media is a dangerous cocktail of mainstream media and social media where everybody has an opinion and anything written is the gospel truth.

He further added that this is not conducive to the rule of law, this atmosphere today is the single biggest impediment in India's growth story. Foreign companies don't want to invest in India because they feel one of India's greatest strengths was the largest English-speaking democracy with a robust rule of law. How can we fix the criminal justice system in India? “It cannot be fixed by the government because media houses are played by their hands, so we need to establish a tribunal which will try cases of defamation and deliver judgments in six months, this will to some extent tame the media ultimately. So the accountability of the media has to be brought through a system consistent with the rule of law,” said Salve. 

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