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Law degree mandatory for journalists to cover SC; 

26 Augustus 2011 06:02:28

Law degree mandatory for journalists to cover SC;

80% Apex Court reporters fear disqualification

The recently promulgated Supreme Court’s “Revised Norms for Accreditation of the Legal Correspondents in the Supreme Court of India” makes a law degree mandatory for journalists to cover the Apex Court proceedings according to Bar & Bench News Network.

It is for the first time in history, a law degree mandatory for all reporters covering the Apex Court proceedings. Till now, a reporter, without a law degree, could get a temporary six-months pass and cover the proceedings before the Supreme Court. The revised norms do not specify when it comes into effect.

R. Jagannathan, Editor-in-Chief, Firstpost said: “The requirement that Supreme Court proceedings can only be covered by people with a law degree defies common sense. If only chartered accountants can comment on company results, if only doctors can report on medicine and hospitals, all reporters would need to do another five years of specialized courses - which is a waste.”

“You do an MBBS to become a doctor, not to write about medicine. Restricting court reporting to law degree holders would mean restricting the profession to a closed cabal of law insiders. The law expert can also miss the obvious - since ultimately court decisions need to pass the common sense test, which requires no law degree,” he argued.

“If the reasoning behind this new requirement is that reporters sometimes misrepresent what the court says or rules, maybe the Supreme Court should mandate a short, one-day course for court reporters which focuses on the do's and don'ts or court reporting. A law degree is a waste of everybody's time,” he added.

Commenting on it, former Chief Justice of India V N Khare said: “This is not fair. When on one side you are talking of transparency...why is even a law degree necessary? You, as a correspondent, are not going to the SC to argue a case but to report. Journalism is a profession by itself. So when you report a matter concerning engineering, do you as a reporter need to have an engineering degree? So how many degrees do you need?”

P. George Giri, Advocate-on-Record in Supreme Court said: “It is a good move from the part of the Supreme Court of India. Prevention is better than cure. The norms introduced by the Supreme Court are only a reasonable restriction on the press freedom. Otherwise, there is every possibility to spread unwanted news by the media; by the reports of the young and energetic journalists, without properly understanding the court procedures.”

Rohit Panikker, correspondent with Times of India said: “It's important that every journalist knows in depth about what they're reporting; and ideally, a law background enables them to give the story a better perspective over straight reportage. But then, that also brings forward the question of what would happen to those journalists who have built their reputation over the years in reporting SC proceedings despite not having a law degree. If that's the case, does a film reporter require a filmmaking degree to go about his work?”

Siddharth Varadarajan editor at The Hindu said: “While I share the concerns of the honourable Judges that Court proceedings are sometimes not reported accurately, the solution lies in proper editorial supervision by our newspapers and TV channels, rather than by specifying with mathematical precision, the onerous qualifications Court reporters must possess in order to be given access to a Court room.”

It has to be seen when these norms will become effective. If these norms come into force more than 80 percent of current reporters covering the Court proceedings in India will be disqualified.