Status as on- 23/01/23
Social Media Impact on Judges
The advancement in the mode of communication has already made human life very easy. Earlier the modes of communication available were very time-consuming and less efficient. In today’s world with the advancement of technology, communication has become a very easy and speedy process. The whole world is now turned into a small circle in which the internet has made access to anyone and anything a very simple process. Social media is one platform where people are connected and share their thoughts and ideas.
Judges and their independency-
The independence of the judiciary is very important for the general public to prevent them from any unjust treatment. This concept has come from England’s Act of Settlement in a country like India the independent judiciary is very important because due to the diversity of the population residing in India.
Provisions in law for securing the independence of the Judiciary:
- Security of tenure. (Art.124(2))
- Salary and allowances.
- Power to punish for its contempt. (Art.129 in Supreme Court, Art.215 in High Court)
- Separation of judiciary from the executive. (Article 50)
- No practice after retirement.
Problems associated with this-
Hon’ble Justice Sikri commented that the media has undergone a complete transformation in the digital age and “we are in the era of paid and fake news”. Social Media has broad coverage which can easily change the opinion of an individual.
The problems associated with it are-
- Media’s portrayal of previous crimes of the accused creates prejudices in the minds of people and judges during a trial.
- Social Media has the power to affect and mold public opinion. By the way of reporting inadmissible evidence and putting it into the public domain and easy approach to the public, so with all the practices media draws the judge’s attention to details that are not to be addressed in adjudicating the case and could subconsciously influence the judge’s judgment. The most famous example is the “KM Nanavati Case”, where public opinion affected the conviction of the accused.
Value of social media posts in the eyes of law-
Criminal Procedure Jurisprudence explains the evidentiary value that social media posts carry. Certainly, there are advantages and good policy reasons for accessing social media evidence used in criminal proceedings. For example, photos can be uploaded quickly and shared within seconds; this alerts authorities regarding crimes in progress or even those already commissioned. Accessing the information in a permissible manner is the key when it comes to the admissibility of social media evidence. More often, a lawyer investigating a case needs to access the public portions of an individual’s social media account and try to recognize if any of their social media profiles may have evidence relevant to a case. As per Common Law, one must consider the applicable rules of ethics for conducting an investigation prior to the litigation. For instance, it is unethical and inappropriate to bypass settings or add someone as your friend in an effort to gain access to private or non-public segments of the subject’s account. Furthermore, this kind of conduct on social media can eliminate the admissibility of social media evidence in court.
The Judiciary and the Media are the third and fourth pillars respectively of a democratic setup. They are indispensable for the smooth functioning of the system. While the former should duly consider the latter’s freedom and right to cover and disseminate news of court proceedings in an open justice system, the latter, on the other hand, should also show due diligence and extreme caution while reporting the latter in order to preserve the former’s sanctity and to ensure a free and fair trial. The most appropriate way of regulating the media is to exercise the Court’s contempt jurisdiction to punish those who breach the basic code of conduct. Social media cannot be allowed freedom of speech and expression to an extent as to prejudice the trial itself.
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