Indian judiciary has in the recent past earned a penchant for interfering with Governance issues. Courts have been passing orders which dictate policy matters, which should ideally be left to the Governments. Added to this, the Chief Justice of India TS Thakur is also known for his plain-speak, which is often contrary to Government of India’s views. Just as PM Modi finished his Independence Day address, CJI Thakur took a dig at the PM saying that he expected the PM to speak on the judicial appointments issue.
Along with the above, another news report was circulating on social media on Independence Day, which was attributed to CJI Thakur. PM Modi had landed a powerful punch to Pakistan by addressing the atrocities in Balochistan by Pakistan. This comment had found support from most, except the rabidly anti-Modi brigade such as Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose, who almost seemed to echo Pakistan’s stance. It was in contex of this news item, that Times of India tweeted the following:
According to the above tweet, CJI Thakur had not only stepped beyond his jurisdiction as the Chief Justice, but also embarrassed the Government of India and the PM, by taking a contrarian stance. Understandably there was considerable outrage on Twitter:
CJI TS Thakur has spoken out of his jurisdiction. How can a judge define India’s foreign policy?
Chatukarita or …? pic.twitter.com/530gq4rMfZ
— Puneet Sharma (@iSharmaPuneet) August 15, 2016
Supreme Court now wants to run the Foreign Policy of India? Whose interest is the CJI TS Thakur serving? pic.twitter.com/YjG8u7Io8d
— Prakash Sharma (@India_Policy) August 15, 2016
India’s foreign policy is not CJI’s concern. He should worry about SC’s undemocratic, unconstitutional collegium. https://t.co/9BtuNrWeZ2
— Sankrant Sanu सानु (@sankrant) August 15, 2016
— Jaini (@manichejain) August 15, 2016
Even Delhi CM Kejriwal who was caught yawning during PM Modi’s speech, took no time to add his support to the CJI’s statement:
I really really admire CJI’s courage, conviction and his concern for justice
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) August 15, 2016
Overall, for the entire morning and more, CJI Thakur was pummelled by social media users for his alleged comments. But by afternoon, Times of India had mysteriously deleted the tweet. Many users were not aware of this as screenshots of the tweet were still circulating. So what happened?
Apparently, the CJI had never made such comments on PM Modi’s Balochistan remarks. It is possible that Times of India had mixed up Congress leader Salman Khurshid’s comments with the CJI’s remarks. It was only in the evening that Times of India admitted their grave error:
We picked the news about CJI’s statement on Balochistan from TV. We deleted it as soon as we realised it was inaccurate. We regret the error
— Times of India (@timesofindia) August 15, 2016
Even in the admission of guilt, they chose to pass on the buck to an unnamed TV channel, from which they claimed to have picked up this news. Considering Times of India’s track record, this is almost certainly a poor excuse to avoid outrage. Does a media house of the size and reach of Times of India just pick up news from “TV” without verification? If they indeed picked up the news from TV, why not name he TV channel?
The question now is this: Barkha Dutt doesn’t want the media to be “tried”. Supposed media watch-dog Newslaundry’s Madhu Trehan is also batting for saving the media in such situations. But here is India’s most popular media house committing a very grave error by attributing completely unrelated comments to a the highest judicial authority in India. Not only has his reputation been tarnished, it will continue to get further impacted as although Times of India has retracted, the screenshot of the tweet has gone viral.
Will the CJI let Times of India go scot-free? It is hard for politicians to take on the media as they have a love-hate relationship, and media can always cry political vendetta. Hence it appears the CJI is in a great position to take Times of India to task. But will he?