Media urged to refrain from brewing controversy over court verdict, order

Media criticism of verdicts erodes faith in the judiciary

Kathmandu, August 2

Nepal Bar Association today issued a press release urging media outlets to maintain restraint about court verdicts. It also said a court should not pass an order or a verdict that creates controversy.

“NBA’s serious attention has been drawn to the comments made by the media and people, recently on the orders and verdicts passed by lower courts and the Supreme Court. While intellectual debate and discussions on court verdicts are always possible, making comments on court verdicts in a manner that erodes people’s faith in the judiciary and judicial system cannot be termed fair,” the lawyers’ umbrella body said in its release.

Recently, some media outlets criticised the SC’s decision to commute life sentence of murder convict former deputy inspector general of Armed Police Force Ranjan Koirala to eight and a-half-years jail sentence. A division bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana and Tej Bahadur KC had delivered the verdict.

A division bench of Sapana Pradhan Malla and Manoj Kumar Sharma had ordered the government to release vehicular manslaughter accused Prithvi Malla on bail, citing his medical conditions.

The NBA said the law and the constitution had provided remedy through courts to correct erroneous orders and judgments.

“Courts always depend on people’s faith and if people lose faith in the judiciary then there won’t be the rule of law and ‘might is right’ will be the rule. Therefore, the NBA urges the media and people not to do anything that could erode people’s faith in the judiciary,” read the release. The NBA said it had demanded reform in the judiciary and the Judicial Council. It demanded that the SC and high courts fix the cause list on the basis of digital automation.

The judiciary should dispense justice independently as per the law using its judicial mind.

Some media outlets have stated that the judiciary had not followed the law in some case and the NBA also felt the same about the judiciary, read the release. It has also asked all its chapters to send the copies of the court orders and verdicts that had discrepancies and anomalies to the NBA central office.

The NBA said media outlets had the tendency to oppose some court orders and verdicts and since such criticism could adversely impact people’s faith in the judiciary, the judiciary should also refrain from issuing such orders and verdicts.

Advocate Pankaj Kumar Karna said while healthy debate on the reform of judiciary was always a possibility, the media and the public should neither praise nor oppose any particular verdict or else that could put judges under pressure to issue a particular kind of verdict. “If judges feel the pressure to award a particular kind of verdict due to the media, then that would be unfair and against the principle of independence of the judiciary. We should not forget that judges pass orders and verdicts on the basis of case file and evidence which may be different from the public’s perception about a verdict,” he added.

Karna said the police investigation was not up to the mark yet and that it needed to be reformed. “If an investigation of a criminal case is erroneous, the judge cannot do anything about it.”

A version of this article appears in e-paper on August 2, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.