Amid outrage over police atrocities, former Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur said on Tuesday that judiciary has to be on guard to ensure that the police does not exceed authority in an investigation and see there is a fair probe. He also said there was misuse of law with cases of sedition being filed against journalists and cautioned that magistrates should not "blindly trust" the prosecution.
Justice (retd) Lokur said laws are misinterpreted, both at the stage of investigation and the filing of charge sheet but the judiciary has to be extra vigilant and not go merely on the basis of the prosecution.
"It's important for the judiciary to be on guard; to see that the police is not exceeding its authority. They should examine the FIR, the case diary, find out what is going on and then proceed," Lokur said.
He was speaking at a webinar -- 'Shooting the Messenger: The 'Chilling Effect' of Criminalising Journalism', organised by a legal news portal.
Referring to Tuticorin incident, where a father-son duo died after being allegedly thrashed by the police last week, Justice Lokur said that initially, the police said that they had a heart condition and now it has come out that some evidence was deleted.
The magistrate cannot blindly trust the prosecution and there has to be a clear application of mind, Lokur said.
"With these things happening, it's difficult to trust the police and the investigation being carried out by them," he said.
Speaking about cases being filed against journalists, Lokur said that in this backdrop, a scribe is never going to be able to trust the fairness of an investigation.
"Then, there is misuse of law. There are examples where there is no question of sedition, but the investigations make out that there is a seditious act involved," he said.
"Take for example Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Just because there's the mention of unlawful activities, it doesn't mean that the Magistrate or the Judge should throw up his hands," Lokur said, adding that a prima facie case has to be made out.
On the issue of deciding urgent matters by the top court, he said that this has been known for a very long time.
"Bail applications are urgent matters, demolition of property is an urgent matter. There are a large category of cases which can be categorised as urgent. This thing about what is urgent and what is not urgent is completely misplaced.
"For some courts to say that bail matters are not urgent defies logic. Personal liberty is always urgent. A court cannot say that they'll take it up after a couple of weeks and you should hang around in jail for a while," Lokur said.
With regard to the attack on citizen journalism during COVID-19, he said that if facts are shown then what is the problem.
"If it's a fact, even if it's uncomfortable, why should it not be reported? The purpose is to improve things. If the hospitals are not working, and that report is factually correct, why should it not be reported ? It's only for improvement," Lokur said.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said that sedation and cases of criminal defamation remain to be one of the most important issues for journalists.
Journalist Seema Chishti said that it is the responsibility of the judiciary to back the journalists who are asking questions.
"We need to do away with the dichotomy of what is national and anti-national. We need an attitude shift so as to refresh our perception of a democracy. The government will put pressure...so the judges need to be sensitised," she said.