There is a growing intolerance against the judiciary fuelled by social media, says Supreme Court judge

Imputations are being made against judges for their decisions, says Sanjay Kishan Kaul during an online lecture

Supreme Court judge Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said there was a growing intolerance against the judiciary fuelled by the social media.

He said imputations were being made against judges for their decisions. Damage was done to the judicial institution if the tendency to criticise crossed certain lines.

“Criticism is also information but boundaries need to be made or if such criticism becomes part of misinformation… This is not good for the system… If you mistrust every system, then you do not have a system and all you have is anarchy,” Justice Kaul said.

He said this during an online lecture on Sunday on ‘Freedom of Speech in times of COVID-19 – Fake news and misinformation’ organised by the MBA Academy, Madras Bar Association. The event saw the participation of S. Parthasarathy, chairman of the MBA Academy, and M. Baskar, secretary of the Madras Bar Association.

Justice Kaul was part of the Bench which recently took suo motu cognisance of the migrant workers’ crisis. In a recent hearing of the case, the Bench saw Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submit how “a handful of people give certificates to judges of neutrality only if judges abuse the Executive!”

The judge said it was a struggle to regulate social media without restricting free speech. He said “fake news propensity has aggravated, creating hostility against identifiable groups” even before the onset of the pandemic in the country.

He said there was a lot of information available during COVID-19 period, including its “remedies”, the origin, people who were “helping the spread of the virus” and such. These messages even take on religious and racial undertones.

Justice Kaul said there was hardly any discernment or effort to know from where information had come or who had sent it on social media. Messages received on social media platforms were “mindlessly forwarded” creating panic and triggering hate at a difficult time when people were worried about their livelihood and basic essentials.

He noted how overall intolerance had exceeded limits. People rushed to the courts if something was found even slightly contrary to their religion and belief.

Even prior to the COVID-19 period, “we had become increasingly intolerant of the opinions that do not match with ours. What is perceived as the middle path becomes the casualty. There are various shades of grey, it is not always black and white. As a democratic polity, we have to appreciate the opinion of others… People who hold opposing views call each other as a ‘Modi bhakt’ or ‘urban naxal”, etc…. Both sections are equally intolerant,” Justice Kaul said.

With inputs from The Hindu