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Court issues guidelines to media on Ayodhya verdict

Last updated on: September 22, 2010 00:16 IST

The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court on Tuesday issued certain guidelines for coverage of the keenly awaited Ayodhya verdict on September 24.

Though the court has disallowed entry of media into the court-room, said to be not big enough to accommodate a large number of people , it has taken certain measures to ensure that copies of the judgment are made available to the media within minutes of its pronouncement.

The direction came in a PIL moved by a local lawyer Prince Lenin, who sought a restraint order against reporting of the verdict by the media. Copy of the order was made available to the media late Tuesday evening.

However, the bench comprising Chief Justice F.I.Rebello and Senior Judge Justice Pradeep Kant, felt that it was not fair in a democracy to even think of barring the media from disseminating the news relating to the judgment.

But they emphasized on the need for media to observe utmost restraint in disseminating correct information, without allowing it to get coloured by personal prejudices and any other extraneous factors.

"Democracy survives if people are given a right to express their views. At the same time we are aware that news, if not properly disseminated, or improperly made, is likely to impair the unity and integrity of this nation," the court observed.

The court praised a resolution passed by the National Broadcasting Association – a representative body of all Indian TV channels – with respect to the coverage of the all important awaited verdict. No sooner than a copy of the resolution was tabled before the court by Alok Mathur, the counsel for the Union government, than the court sought to urge the media to observe self-discipline by strictly adhering to the guidelines issued by the association.

Quoting from the resolution, the bench said, "The Ayodhya issue is one such matter in which extra care is necessary to ensure that the telecast of any news relating to it should not be sensational, inflammatory or be provocative."

As per the resolution all news relating to the High Court judgment in the case should be verbatim reproduction of the relevant part of the said judgment uninfluenced by any opinion or interpretation.

"No broadcast should be made of any speculation of the judgment before it is pronounced; and of its likely consequence thereafter which may be sensational, inflammatory or provocative."

"No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any new item relating to the judgment.  No visuals need be shown depicting celebration or protest of the judgment. In view of the sensitivity of news reporting on this issue extra care should be taken to ensure accuracy by vetting & clearance at the highest editorial
level.." it further added.

Keeping the resolution in mind, the judges ruled, "This Court will not take any steps to muzzle the freedom of the Press or TV Channels; but is assured in view of their self-imposed restraint that they will abide by the resolution."

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow