Kangaroo courts on TV debates and social media were taking the country backwards, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said on Saturday, in searing criticism that called their behaviour “biased”, “ill-informed” and “agenda-driven”.

The remarks assume huge significance following the backlash to a verdict earlier this month on former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s comments on Prophet Muhammad, which the Supreme Court said had stoked communal tension across the country.

“There are concerted campaigns in social media against judges. Judges may not react immediately. Please don’t mistake it to be a weakness or helplessness,” Justice Ramana said, delivering a lecture at an academic event in Ranchi.

“New media tools have enormous amplifying ability but appear to be incapable of distinguishing between the right and the wrong, the good and the bad and the real and the fake,” the chief justice said.

“Media trials cannot be a guiding factor in deciding cases. We see the media running kangaroo courts, at times on issues even experienced judges find difficult to decide,” he said.

“Ill-informed and agenda-driven debates on issues involving justice delivery are proving to be detrimental to the health of democracy,” he added.

The Chief Justice, who retires next month, said biased views being spread by the media were weakening democracy and harming the system. “In this process, justice delivery gets adversely affected,” he said.

“By overstepping and breaching your responsibility, you are taking our democracy two steps backwards,” Justice Ramana said.

Print media still has a certain degree of accountability, the top judge said, adding, “Whereas electronic media has zero accountability as what it shows vanishes into thin air. Still, worse is social media.”

Urging the media to self-regulate, he said, “It is best for the media to self-regulate and measure their words. I urge electronic and social media to behave responsibly. Electronic media should rather use their voice to educate people and energise the nation.”

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