The Supreme Court today turned down a request of a lawyer to gag the media from reporting a high-voltage hearing, reflecting a tussle among its judges on the setting up of a bench to deal with a graft case allegedly involving judges. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra made it clear that freedom of speech and expression and freedom of the press "shall be respected". The issue cropped up during the charged hearing when a lawyer requested the court that the media should be directed not to report the matter since it would tarnish the image of the institution which is the highest court of the land. "I believe in freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of press," CJI Misra said. "Prima facie, I am always of the view that freedom of speech and expression and press shall be respected.
I am not going to pass any order restraining the press," the CJI said. The constitution bench, which assembled urgently at 3 PM, made it clear that the CJI was the "master of the court" and had the sole prerogative to allocate matters. It overturned an order passed yesterday by a two-judge bench to constitute a five-judge bench to hear a matter of alleged bribes taken in the name of judges and said that neither a two-judge, nor a three-judge bench can direct the CJI to constitute a specific bench.