Delhi High Court Asserts: Gag Orders Only When Necessary for Fair Trial

Mainstream
30-Jan-2024
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The Delhi High Court, in a recent case, emphasized that gag orders should only be issued when there is a substantial risk to the fairness of a trial. Justice Subramonium Prasad underscored the need for careful consideration of the nature of the publication before imposing such orders, stating that not every publication related to court proceedings automatically affects a fair trial.

“Prejudice by a publication can be of two categories—one which tends to impair the court's impartiality and the other which prejudices the court's ability to determine true facts… It is well settled that gag orders should be passed only when it is necessary and to prevent substantial risk to the fairness of a trial,” the judge remarked.

The observations came during a case where a man, Ajay Kumar, sought gag orders against Hindustan Times and Dainik Jagran newspapers. He alleged that the publications, at the behest of a police officer, named him to prejudice a case filed by his mother against the officer.

The Court, however, found the petitioner's claims lacking and deemed the petition an abuse of the legal process. It noted the absence of relevant facts and materials and highlighted that the petitioner failed to establish a connection between the news articles and the consumer complaint or the writ petition filed by his mother.

"The petitioner has come to this Court seeking a gag order against respondents without bringing on record all the relevant facts and material. This Court is of the opinion that the instant petition is nothing but a complete abuse of the process of law by the petitioner," the Court stated.

Dismissing the plea, the Court imposed a fine of ₹10,000 on Kumar, directing him to pay it to the Armed Forces Battle Casualty Welfare Fund.

This ruling reinforces the judiciary's commitment to balance the right to free speech with the necessity to maintain a fair and impartial legal process.

Author: Anushka Taraniya

News Writer, MIT ADT University