Reputation in India matters little, says Salve

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NEW DELHI: Renowned lawyers Kapil Sibal and Harish Salve on Saturday said media trial not only marred reputation and hindered investigations, but also impeded foreign investments in India in some cases.
Speaking at the first Ram Jethmalani Memorial Lecture on ‘Pros and Cons of Media Trial’, Salve said media activism is welcome where systemic apathy and police indifference fail the poor when pitted against the rich, influential and politicians. “It does a great job when it takes up the cause of the poor failed by the system and police,” he said.
“But it becomes a problem when the rule of noise displaces the rule of law. Media seldom believes in law of evidence and often runs a campaign to embarrass through selective leaks from investigating agencies. Reputation in India matters little as does privacy. This lacuna has to be contained if India is to become a responsible republic,” he said.
The former solicitor general and now a Queen’s counsel said “media trial, as prevalent today, is not only non-conducive to Rule of Law but also is a great impediment to investments in India”. He suggested setting up of a tribunal headed by a retired judge to expeditiously decide defamation cases, with an outer limit of six months, to rein in the errant media.
He said only the courts can rein in the media by drawing the ‘Laxman Rekha’ and hold it accountable.
Sibal said sensationalism with scant regard for facts has become the order of the day for media coverage. “Look at the telecom sector. The media resorted to sensationalism in coverage by which it marred the reputation of many who were later found not guilty by the trial court. But the biggest fallout of this was that the robust sector which was giving good revenue to the government was reduced to a debt-ridden one,” he said.
Sibal said parallel media trial affects ongoing investigations and, spurred by social media, also affects the sanctity of the trial. He said to bring sanctity to media coverage, big business houses must exit from the media business.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi said aberrations in media coverage are getting bigger and starker as often they resort to “verbal terrorism, visual extremism and content tyranny”.
At the lecture organised by Mahesh Jethmalani, late doyen of criminal law Ram Jethmalani got fulsome praise from Justice N V Ramana, Attorney General K K Venugopal, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and eminent lawyers Fali S Nariman, Soli J Sorabjee and many others.

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