At what point freedom of expression impinges on judicial independence is for the courts to interpret. But, such interpretation tends more to take the form of contempt of court. And, all too often, the courts take too dim a view of transgressions, which aren’t too many in the first place. The conviction by the Delhi high court and subsequent release on interim bail of four Mid-Day newspaper employees, including three journalists, for writing about a former Chief Justice of India Y.K. Sabharwal and allegedly tarnishing the image of the Supreme Court, illustrates this.
Even if there is no such thing as absolute freedom of expression, any restrictions beyond a point render it meaningless. Criticism was levelled at an individual who had retired and was not directed at the court itself. The Delhi high court hasn’t made a compelling case that criticism of a retired judge affects the prestige of India’s highest court. We hope the Supreme Court will agree when Mid-Day appeals.