PLAYING AN unusual role for a Supreme Court judge, Justice Kurian Joseph used the gavel — figuratively — to bring order between lawyers and journalists in Kerala, who got into a scuffle last week in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.
For Justice Joseph, it took about a hundred phone calls to more than 70 people, including judges, advocates and journalists, to ensure the tension was addressed. The judge, sources told The Indian Express, convinced two Kerala High Court judges to travel to Thiruvananthapuram and pacify the warring lawyers and journalists after listening to both sides.
“Justice Joseph comes from Kerala and had been a judge there for 10 years, besides practising as a lawyer for more than two decades there,” a Kerala HC lawyer said. “He knows many lawyers and journalists there, and thus decided to act on his own.”
Tension was sparked on July 19 and 20 in Kerala High Court premises over an alleged “wrong report” published in a newspaper regarding the HC Bar Association’s role in reproaching the arrest of a government pleader who was accused of molesting a woman. The advocates maintain that the charge is fabricated and the pleader had moved the High Court to get the case quashed.
When advocates took up the matter with journalists, abuses were allegedly exchanged and eventually led to a scuffle. Media-persons later boycotted a Bar Association press conference and lawyers countered by stopping them from using the media room. As journalists staged a sit-in at the HC gate, the tiff turned into clashes between the two sides.
On July 21, the violence spread to Thiruvananthapuram.
Justice Joseph decided to intervene at this stage and rang up acting Chief Justice of Kerala HC Thottathil B Radhakrishnan to gauge the problem. He then spoke with lawyers in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram and subsequently requested two senior HC judges — P N Ravindran and P R Ramachandra Menon — to immediately meet representatives from both sides.
“Veteran lawyers were asked to help young lawyers understand the intrinsic values of the profession, and journalists were requested to reflect upon their role as the fourth pillar of democracy,” a senior lawyer from Kochi said.
Prashanth Raghuvamsom of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, who led the delegation that met Justice Joseph and Chief Justice of India T S Thakur, told The Indian Express: “Justice Joseph’s intervention really helped defuse the tension in Kochi and
Thiruvananthapuram… The situation in Thiruvananthapuram is completely normal now.”
Raghuvamsom added that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has constituted a committee, to be headed by the Advocate General, and the HC administration is being also roped in to improve the situation in Kochi, where journalists are still facing some problems.