Free Press Essential For Healthy Democracy – Justice Rajiv Sharma

Shimla: Emphasising on media’s role about maintaining a delicate balance between status quo and social change, Justice Rajiv Sharma of the Himachal High Court said that it had been realised early that gaze of a free press was a must for survival of democracy.

Delivering a talk centred on ‘Parliament and Media’ organised by the Shimla, press club, justice Sharma said that though there was no statuary codification but it was from the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 (1A) of the constitution from which the powers of a free press were derived from.

In our parliamentary form of government, to embolden an elected member to speak his mind without fear or favour, certain privileges had been allowed by the framers of the constitution but a members privileges seize outside the house, he said.

The judiciary had no role to play in contempt proceedings of a legislature or parliament where the speaker is the arbitrator but courts had intervened when natural flow of justice was found to be suspect, he added.

Radha Raman Shastri, a former speaker of HP Assembly, said that misuse of legislative privileges was becoming a cause for concern.

He said many legislatures were not properly functioning, absenteeism was chronic, bills were passed with discussions, and disruption of proceedings was grossly harming the democratic tradition.

Treading the course of reporting parliamentary or legislative proceedings in a bold and unbiased manner did have inherent risks, said Shastri, but the role of media in maintaining a fine balance between different organs of state, the legislature, executive and judiciary demands such risks be taken for strengthening democracy.

Earlier opening the debate senior journalist Sushil Kumar said that a members privilege was often misused to prevent the media from playing its role.

Ashwani Sharma, another journalist pointed out that one presiding officer of a legislative assembly had decreed that a protest ‘walkout’ by the opposition be only termed as ‘left the house’, unless the Speaker authorized one to be called a walkout.

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