Is Judiciary immune to Social Media?

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This article is written by Priyanka Bajpai, student of Amity Law School, Chhattisgarh.

 

Technology is in almost everyone’s hand now a days. Each one wants to keep themselves updated and use technology for the same . Through this technology, being connected to the world is really easy now. Every moment can be captured, shared and saved . Even this technology has made its place in work space. While its being in the work place may be at some place useful while in some place be really harmful. Judicial and legal professions are by no means exempt from them .

Perks of Social Media with Judiciary.

No one can deny the fact that social media and the opportunities it presents for lawyers and judges to stay connected with the community they serve in. These applications are even used actively by many of the attorneys . In the US, a Texan Supreme Court Judge uses Twitter to share a mix of family outing and political commentary, with a whole community keeping a track on his profile. In England and Scotland, similar profiles are used to update the public on the work of judges and magistrates continuously.

Further adding to it, a High Court Judge in England recently used twitter to make a direct appeal to urge a woman who disappeared with her three -year old son to return home.

Speaking about situation  in India, it is good as facts relating to certain laws are clear to some common people through certain sources. Support of judicial use of social media is made apparent in words of Union Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad ;
“I am a great supporter of social media and freedom. I know it is empowering, but there is a dangerous trend . Judges must be left completely independent to give judgment as what they think is the correct mode in accordance of the rule of law. “

Problems of social media with judiciary.

No doubt social media is helpful, but there are also risks and challenges inherent in the use of social media by Judiciary. This would lead to issues of Ethics and Integrity. Active use of social media as well as indirect engagement can both impact and can have severe consequences for the individual involved.

There would be remarks and quotes by the public that can put pressure on the judges. Media-trials now a days have become commonplace. Now a days, before a trial actually takes place and before any judgment has actually been passed, social media by itself has solutions and also has judgments passed by its users, could have an influence on how a judge decides it.

For instance a Kentucky judge got disqualified because he ‘liked’ a political campaign post on Facebook, which was perceived as political endorsement. In another case, a Wisconsin judge became facebook friend of a woman whose child custody case he was presiding over. The court ordered the case to be proceeded before a different judge as their friendship could make the judge bias.

Also Read:  Importance of Charge-sheet in a Criminal Trial

In India, it is observed that there is great tendency among Senior Advocates to write articles in national newspapers , which are subsequently shared and commented on via social media , raising doubts about the Supreme court’s efficacy to deal with a particular case. Coincidently articles are published the day the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a particular case , presented to them by the very author of the article.
Supreme Court judge, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul , said, there was a growing intolerance against the judiciary fuelled by social media. He also said , imputations were being made against judges for their decisions .
Exposure to public’s remarks and sentiments towards a case before trial can have an effect on judges . After all they are humans too. Additional Solicitor General of India, Madhavi Diwan said, “Judges can be put under pressure because they are as human anybody else”.

Judges also need to be careful about how they are perceived on social media . The maxim-“Justice should not only be done but also appear to be done ” , clearly puts the onus on the judges.

Guidelines issued .

Use of social media is common and these challenges are here to stay. Therefore staying on guidelines and principles can help ensure integrity and ethics will create an impartial judiciary. The International Bar Association (IBA) in 2014 acknowledged the fact.
In 2014 , IBA’s legal Policy and Research Unit ( LPRU) published its International Principles on Social Media conduct for the Legal Profession . These principles addressed both the opportunities and risks that the Legal Professionals may need to know.
UNDOC also embarked on the development of Non-Binding guidelines on the use of social media by judges. These illustrated the pros and cons of the use of social media and provide guidance and training of judicial conducts and ethics. These guidelines were to be regularly updated as that of the technology.

Conclusions

Social media is a great connector, however , if it overwhelms all other aspects of priority and duty , it can be disintegrative and disastrous. Everything is good if done with awareness and idea, and so it is in case of judiciary and use of social media. In these challenging time when social distancing is a strategy of self-protection , it will be good if we will enforce social media distancing also for saving the law. Guidelines provided should be followed by the judiciary and we as citizens of India should respect the decisions of the court and the judges.

Image from: https://www.economist.com/asia/2018/10/13/mild-social-media-posts-scandalise-singapores-judges

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