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August 23, 2023by canonsphere0

The case analysis is done by Arnisha Das, a 3rd year BA LLB student of Department of Law, University of Calcutta.

Citation: LL 2021 SC 244

Jurisdiction: Civil Appellate Jurisdiction

Judges: Hon’ble Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud & Hon’ble Justice M.R Shah


In the wake of the COVID-19 second wave, the judgment of the Madras High Court concerning the electoral rallies infringing protocols was highlighted in the newspapers. This was due to the writ petition filed against the election commission for upholding election rally guidelines, for which COVID-19 spread across the country. The Apex Court has held that though the press can report the transpired judicial proceedings, the opinion of the court is expressed through its judicial orders.

Facts of the Case

In this instance, the Karur Legislative Assembly Constituency of the AIADMK and the District Secretary filed a writ petition under Article 226 in the Madras High Court to ensure that Covid-19 procedures are followed in the polling places during the elections in Tamil Nadu’s Karur Legislative Assembly Constituency.

The secretary brought into notice to the Election Commission by sending a representative about the health protocols on 16th April 2021. But, the Election Commission didn’t take any solid action right then. As a last resort, M R Vijayabhaskar filed a writ petition before the Madras High Court to assure fair processing of votes in the 135th Karur Legislative Assembly Constituency. In the Madras High Court Judgment, a bench comprising both Hon’ble Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee & Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy heard the case on April 26, 2021. The high court issued a ruling stating that the Election Commission was “the sole institution responsible for the second wave of COVID” and that it “should be charged for murder.”

However, the statements did not take place in the order nor were recorded, but the next day they spread across the print media & the electronic media through headlines. This made the Election Commission naturally uncomfortable & irritated in the eye of the public. Thus, they took their plea in the form of a Special Leave Petition to the Supreme Court of India.  

Issues Raised

  1. The Petitioner alleged that the Madras High Court propounded its remark against the EC by not addressing the merits of its miscellaneous application. 
  2. The petitioner was aggrieved by the media reporting that only sustains the oral remarks made during the proceeding and not the documented ones. 


  1. The petitioner’s counsel contends that the Madras High Court failed to address the merits of the Election Commission’s miscellaneous application and instead made derogatory remarks against the EC. They, further, argued that Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to move the High Court for the enforcement of fundamental rights has limited scope in the case.
  2. The petitioner’s counsel highlights that the media selectively reported the oral remarks made during the proceedings, which were not part of the official order. They argued that this had resulted in the misrepresentation of the High Court’s opinion and caused public discomfort and animosity towards the Election Commission. The petitioner asserts that the media’s reporting was biased and did not reflect the true facts of the case.
  3. The counsel for the petitioner emphasizes that the Election Commission is an independent constitutional body responsible for conducting free and fair elections. They argue that the derogatory remarks made by the Madras High Court compromised the impartiality and fairness of the Election Commission’s functioning. The petitioner asserts that the judiciary should maintain neutrality and refrain from making subjective comments that may undermine public trust in democratic processes.
  1. The respondent’s advocate, Mr Pradeep Kumar Yadav, emphasizes that the Election Commission (EC) holds significant powers during the election period. These powers include the deployment of paramilitary forces and the ability to suspend or replace officers such as district magistrates, police officers, and the Director General of Police. By highlighting these powers, the respondent aims to establish that the EC has the authority to ensure compliance with its directives and maintain order during elections.
  2. Mr Yadav states that the submissions made by the petitioner’s counsel should be considered in the context of the issues raised in the case. He suggests that the court should evaluate the arguments while considering the specific issues at hand. By emphasizing the need for a focused analysis, the respondent aims to ensure that the court assesses the arguments in a comprehensive and relevant manner.
  3. The respondent’s counsel underscores that the EC’s actions are driven by the objective of upholding electoral integrity. He argues that the EC’s wide-ranging powers and responsibilities are designed to ensure a fair, transparent, and inclusive electoral process. Mr Yadav asserts that any allegations against the EC should be viewed in light of its commitment to maintaining the credibility of the electoral system and preserving democratic principles.


The judgment in the case emphasizes the need to balance the rights of two constitutional authorities, namely the Madras High Court and the Election Commission (EC). The Madras High Court, as a constitutional court, enjoys a high degree of deference in the judicial structure and plays a crucial role in protecting citizens’ fundamental rights. The court acknowledges the High Courts’ commendable efforts in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and their close connection to ground realities.

On the other hand, the EC is entrusted with the vital task of conducting free and fair elections, ensuring the integrity of the electoral process, and regulating conduct related to elections.A functioning democracy requires it to be independent and trustworthy. The court recognizes the powers, duties, and functions of the EC that are crucial for breathing life into democratic political spaces. The case law of Mohinder Singh Gill vs Chief Election Commr., (1978) 1 SCC 405 is cited to support the discussion on the EC’s powers and duties.

The judgment emphasizes the need for judges to exercise caution in off-the-cuff remarks that can be susceptible to misinterpretation. It underscores the importance of language in judicial processes, which must uphold judicial propriety and constitutional values. The court highlights the responsibility and caution that come with the power of judicial review entrusted to the High Courts.

Regarding the oral remarks made during the hearing, the court clarifies that they are not part of the official judicial record and do not constitute a formal opinion. Therefore, there is no need to expunge them. The court upholds media freedom to cover court proceedings, viewing it as essential to the right to free speech and expression and holding the judiciary responsible for upholding constitutional principles.

The decision recognises and respects the press’s right to report on legal processes. It emphasises how crucial freedom of speech and expression is for the media’s ability to report on legal processes. According to the judgement, permitting the media to cover court hearings is essential for individuals who seek to speak, hear, and be heard, as well as for holding the judiciary responsible to the principles that support its status as a constitutional institution.

The judgment expresses the court’s belief that the freedom of the media to report court proceedings is an essential aspect of a democratic society. However, it is important to note that the judgment does not cite specific case laws in this context to support its stance on the freedom of the press.

The judgment seeks to strike a balance between the two constitutional authorities, recognizing the roles and responsibilities of both while emphasizing the importance of responsible language and judicial propriety.     


In the decision made in the Chief Election Commissioner vs. M R Vijayabhaskar, the honourable Supreme Court has its subtle discretion in balancing between the rights and responsibilities of two significant constitutional authorities, namely the Madras High Court and the Election Commission. 

The judgment supports the freedom of speech of the media and the press, by emphasizing its integral role in the judicial proceedings. It prompts a sense of understanding & equilibrium between the constitutional authorities involved.

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