45th Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court Dipankar Datta was sworn in by the Governor after the judge drove 2000 kms from Calcutta to Mumbai
45th Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court Dipankar Datta was sworn in by the Governor after the judge drove 2000 kms from Calcutta to Mumbai

Freedom of the press does not include the right to identify religious minorities and incite passions against them. There are eight restrictions enumerated in Article 19 (2) which clearly permits the central and state governments to enact laws curtailing such abuse of free speech. Notwithstanding such restrictions, this ebullient TV anchor unashamedly makes religion a pivotal point for his news hour debates to stir up controversies where none exist. This is why these FIRs have been registered and the anchor interrogated for 12 hours by the Mumbai police. But this does not justify the two goondas who claim to be youth Congress workers attacking this news anchor's car and splashing what was reportedly black ink on his car.

The nation does want to know if these two goondas are really youth Congress workers and if they planned this dastardly attack under instructions from Congress leaders as is being made out.

However, this ebullient news anchor has crossed the limits of professionalism to make it a personal vendetta against the Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. All things considered, it is unlikely that she would stoop so low as to order an attack on a TV anchor just because he criticises her.

It is more likely that these two goondas were "put up" by some unscrupulous elements for political vendetta.

Ethics demands a person should be given a chance to defend himself before being insulted. But this is never the case. Rahul Gandhi is regularly made fun of in his absence. A former Congress minister Jayanti Natarajan who was sacked because of her ineptitude in handling the environment portfolio is given prominence after she switched sides.

The underlying rationale is the nation and Parliament belongs to this TV anchor, who regularly mouths epithets such as "my Parliament" and "my country", conveniently forgetting that both the nation and Parliament belong to 1.8 billion Indians apart from him.

The fact that this high-flyer got a reprieve from the Supreme Court on an urgent basis after engaging high profile lawyers like Mukul Rohatgi who appears on his show speaks for itself.

During this pandemic, there are much more urgent PILs seeking testing for COVID-19 asymptomatic patients. But the fact that this petition was allegedly not listed before being heard does raise eyebrows.

In an unrelated development, the 45th Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court Dipankar Datta was sworn in by the Governor after the judge drove 2000 kms from Calcutta to Mumbai via Bhubaneshwar, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Solapur to Pune and then to Mumbai. The stamina and resilience of this comparatively young judge would put even racing car drivers to shame.

Since he is only 55 years old, Justice Dipankar Datta has got seven years as a chief justice. It is unlikely he will serve as a chief justice for his full 7 years term and will be elevated to the Supreme Court before that.

Not to be outdone, Allahabad High Court Judge Biswanath Somadder drove from Allahabad to Shillong via Calcutta to take charge as the chief justice of the much smaller Meghalaya High Court. Justice Somadder also covered slightly more than 2000 kms to be sworn in as the chief justice.

These facts prove these judges are undaunted by the shutting down of planes and trains. Duty beckons and they decided to sit behind the steering wheel to drive across India to take charge of their high courts.

And so while we have judges driving across the country, another welcome step was when a top notch law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas decided to reduce the retainers of some of their lawyers.

When India's economy has gone into a tailspin, this was only natural.

A hilarious offshoot of video conferencing was that two lawyers appeared in their baniyans before Justice Pradeep Kumar Sharma of the Rajasthan High Court.

The lawyer Ravindra Kumar Paliwal sat in front of the video camera in his baniyan in a bail application. Not amused, Justice Pradeep Kumar Sharma adjourned the matter to 5th May. But not before he had summoned the chairman of the state bar council with the Registrar General of the High Court with a direction to them to order all lawyers to don their uniforms (white shirt+band+black coat+gown) when appearing before a high court judge.

What arouses amusement is the fact that this incident was repeated on two different occasions before the same judge. Apparently, in March, another lawyer had sat in his baniyan before the video camera which roused the same judge's ire. Lawyers are erudite and refined when they argue in court which is why it is unthinkable for a lawyer to sit in front of a high court judge wearing his baniyan.

This could actually have invited a notice for committing contempt of court were it not for Justice Pradeep Kumar Sharma's forbearance.

And yet another offshoot of the lockdown was that two lawyers who sought a direction from the Supreme Court to direct the Bar Council of India (BCI) to set up an Emergency Fund had their petition dismissed. “Let the BCI decide on its own. Lawyers are not the only class of professionals without work. The courts have no money of their own. The BCI should decide this question on its own”, said Justice N V Ramana and S K Kaul while dismissing the petition.

It is true that junior lawyers rely on litigation to feed their families which is why there are a few unscupulous lawyers outside magistrates' courts who solicit passersby on the streets. These lawyers (and unqualified touts) give a bad name to the entire profession.

The right of life is unqualified, which is why the JJ Hospital started testing samples sent from Kasturba Hospital after getting approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research so that the right to life of all citizens does not remain a chimera.

The writer holds a Ph.D in Media Law and is a journalist-cum-lawyer of the Bombay High Court

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