Thursday evening saw Kerala newspapers and news channel editors exit a meeting pleased over state Chief Justice Mohan M Shantana Goudarâ€™s assurance that the media would be able to resume coverage of court proceedings after a gap of two months.
Media organizations in Kerala and lawyers have been at loggerheads for several weeks now. The relationship soured over the reporting of an alleged sexual harassment case by a government pleader, and resulted in violence in at least three courts.
In spite of the Thursday meeting. Friday saw eight reporters being threatened with bodily harm by lawyers if they did not leave the court premises immediately.
When the reporters sought to meet the Chief Justice he declined and asked them to file a complaint with the court registrar.
Justice at cross-purposes?
The fiasco at the court came on the heels of the editorsâ€™ meeting chaired by the Chief Justice himself, with the office bearers of Kerala High Court Advocates Association (KHCAA), senior advocates MK Damodaran and S Sreekumar and seven senior High Court judges present.
In the course of the meeting, the editors had raised the security aspect of their court-reporters in the backdrop of the lawyer-media tussle that began on 19 July this year. It was mutually decided that no mediaperson would be barred from reporting from the court premises, though the media room would remain temporarily closed.
The last two months had seen the reporters accessing judgments and orders from the chambers of judges. It was the Chief Justice himself who had reiterated that there was no ban in place on the presence of the media in the court.
Yet the advocates chose to defy what was agreed upon in the meeting, with them even threatening to trash the five reporters identified by them, if they were ever seen in court, according to P Ramdas, court reporter of The New Indian Express.
The reporters later had to be escorted out of the court premises by the police after they filed a complaint with the registrar.
In the light of the renewed impasse between the press and the legal fraternity in the state, Kerala Governor Justice (Retd) P Sathasivam on Saturday appealed to both sides to amicably settle their differences through dialogue.
â€śThe civil society has high expectations from lawyers and journalists, as the functions they serve are integral to the maintenance of democracy in our country. While the legal fraternity strives to ensure justice to the people, the mediaâ€™s presence in the Courts helps in ensuring the societyâ€™s right to know. Disputes and disagreements between the two fraternities are certainly not in the best interests of society. Therefore, I appeal to the lawyers and journalists to settle the matter amicably through dialogue, thereby ensuring a new phase of continued cordiality and mutual respect,â€ť the governor said in a statement released to the media.