CJI Ranjan Gogoi irate about The Wire’s reportage of CBI Director Alok Verma’s responses to CVC

Not only the CJI but even Fali Nariman, Alok Verma's advocate seemed distressed at the media leak. He said that the leak was unauthorised and that free press should not mean irresponsible press.

The CBI has been mired with controversy lately. Not too long ago, the Modi government had asked both the Director, Alok Verma and the Deputy Director, Rakesh Asthana to step down after a bitter turf war had broken out. Both Verma and Asthana had made allegations of corruption against each other. The court had ordered the Central Vigilance Committee to file its report on the allegations in two weeks.

Following this, the Central Vigilance Committee submitted its observations to the court in a sealed envelope. The court was also given the answers provided by Alok Verma to the CVC. The report including Alok Verma’s response was given in a sealed envelope and was supposed to be highly confidential.

However, it is now being alleged that the leftist propaganda website The Wire somehow got a hold of the confidential documents and ran elaborate stories publishing Alok Verma’s version. They have contested that the reports were based on Verma’s response to the CVC before the SC had ruled and the responses were not in a sealed cover, hence, they have not contravened the SC order.

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During the hearing, today, after the Supreme Court bench commenced, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi handed over The Wire’s article detailing the confidential report to Fali Nariman who is representing Alok Verma.

The CJI, after handing over the article to Verma’s attorney was furious at the leak. He reportedly said that none of them deserves a hearing because of it. He also said that Free Press and responsible press have to be balanced. The court also adjourned the hearing on Verma’s plea following this.

The CJI is reported to have said urged Nariman to help them as the media report was handed over to him as a senior lawyer and not as the advocate for Alok Verma.

In fact, not only the CJI but even Fali Nariman, Alok Verma’s advocate seemed distressed at the media leak. He said that the leak was unauthorised and that free press should not mean irresponsible press.

Fali Nariman also asked the Supreme Court to summon The Wire’s Editor to get answers.

Later, however, Nariman clarified that there was no violation of court report as Wire reported Verma’s response to CVC, not Verma’s report to Court which was in a sealed cover. But the court was not satisfied with this reply and refused to resume hearing into the plea of Alok Verma. The CJI said that “Our respect to maintaining institutional integrity is not being shared by the litigant”, in a scathing criticism of the litigants.

The Wire too has defended itself saying that The Wire stories on Alok Verma’s responses were to the questions CVC put to him. Those were not in a sealed cover.

After Fali Nariman’s initial surprise and comments, Nariman and The Wire seemed to be on the same page in their argument. However, star journalist of The Wire had different plans. She contradicted her own Editor, Siddharth Varadarajan and said that journalism IS about reporting ‘stuff’ even if they are ‘secret’. It almost seemed like a confession from Rohini that they breached some ethical code in their reporting.

Even if The Wire did not contravene the SC order, which Fali Nariman has asserted, the Chief Justice of India squarely believed that The Wire and the litigant, Alok Verma in this case, was not respecting the institutional integrity of the court. This is a scathing indictment of how freedom of the press has encroached upon ethical journalism with portals like The Wire.

Verma’s report was not the only one to invite the court’s ire. Court also expressed its anger against the media reports on the petition of CBI officer M K Sinha. The officer was transferred to Nagpur by the government and he had petitioned at the top court against the transfer. His petition was widely published in media, which levelled serious allegations against CBI and even brought in NSA Ajit Doval into the controversy.

The court was not at all happy with media coverage of a petition. The CJI said, “here is a litigant who mentions it before us and then goes out to distribute the petition to everyone”.

The CJI also remarked that the court is not a platform for anyone to say anything. He affirmed that the court will set it right.

Since the CBI vs CBI controversy came to light, the left-liberal media is openly taking the side of the Alok Verma camp. In a bid to garner public sympathy in favour of him, media houses are promoting his version of the story, even publishing important documents related to the case. But now it seems that strategy may backfire as the court is not happy with this media to interfere in the case.

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