October , 2018
Like the judiciary, media need to revive through activism
14:11 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

The outgoing chief justice of the Supreme Court, in spite of the allegations made by his own colleagues that he was partial, showed exemplary courage by coming up with judgments of major issues that were pending for long. In the last six months of his tenure, he was part of landmark judgments on UDAI, controversial Sabarimala temple and on a number of contentious issues of human relationships.

“Judicial activism” is one of the terms now being used quite frequently for such hyper-activity in the judiciary - one of the three pillars of democracy. If the executive and the legislative wings are inactive - or regressive - in their actions, perhaps judiciary is our only hope. The media – often called the fourth estate – admittedly, is a let-down in such critical times.

Taking the cue from the judiciary, media could have revived itself. It was a sad day for the democracy when people saw fissures in the Supreme Court – one judge accusing the other in public. But quickly we saw a recovery – through perhaps judicial activism - in restoring the faith of the people in the judiciary. Most of the judgments are pro-people. We suspected interference of the legislature-executive nexus in the functioning of the judiciary especially on the controversies on selection of judges through the collegiums. But finally we witnessed a smooth succession of the chief justice – someone who was part of the team who accused the outgoing chief justice of being ‘close’ to the government or legislature.

We are passing through troubled times. In the past decades we have seen financial reforms which have surfaced so much of controversies, acrimony and muck.  This ‘manthan’ is an ongoing process. We have been looking forward to reforms in the judiciary, legislature and executive wings too and the process will not be easy. The change has to come from within. Judicial activism is a sign of change from within the judiciary. There will be external pressures – but the resilience of the pillars of democracy will have to withstand it and keep itself changing with the times.

If the politician and the bureaucracy are hand in glove to resist the change  which the people long to see – the judiciary is still our hope. The media, the fourth estate, should come forward and side with the judiciary to bring about the change. That is one way of regaining its sagging credibility.

There are signs of internal revolt within the media too. The “Me too” movement has empowered the woman journalists to speak out against their erring editors, who at times seem all-powerful. Propaganda and marketing muscle cannot hide moral laxities. Truth will out. If media has been accused to “paid news”, fake news, lobbying and other immoralities in media values, it is because ‘men of straw’ were at the helm of affairs for some period of time. That destroyed media credibility. Regaining its lost ground is not an easy thing. It will need a ‘manthan’ within the media establishment itself – and the signs are already there.

Media houses poke their nose into the affairs of all three pillars of democracy. But does it ever look within itself? But one media house, till recently, did not speak against the other. But why? Even the Supreme Court opened up and spoke about their differences – unprecedented though. No, we don’t want washing of dirty linen in public. But on differences in policies, we need to speak out. That is part of democracy.

We are hopeful. The albatross is coming off the neck.




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