The power of social media and the internet is immeasurable.  It has been both beneficium and pernicious in the world. In recent weeks, people have resorted to social media accusing the judiciary of a miscarriage of justice and it’s becoming a trend. While there may be some genuine reasons, there can also be unfounded facts and wrong information adversely affecting people’s confidence in the justice system. One post indicated that the appellate court refused to hear the case because the opposing party was not in the country and caused him miscarriage of justice. These are half-baked stories with no understanding of the legal system and legal processes, yet many netizens believed it.  The truth, in this case, was that the appellant had already withdrawn the appeal. Once the appeal has been withdrawn, the court does not have the authority to again conduct hearings.  

The Kuensel came out with a damning headline “Judiciary’s silence more dangerous than online videos” and mentioned that the Supreme Court admitted the appeal after the story appeared on social media. Such news is not only calamitous to public confidence in the judiciary but indicates its vulnerabilities to social media pressure.  Section 1 Article 21 of the Constitution states that “the Judiciary shall safeguard, uphold, and administer Justice fairly and independently without fear, favour, or undue delay in accordance with the Rule of Law.” The rule of law means the due process of law which means the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (CCPC) must be applied for adjudication in the court. The admissibility of appeals must be not pressured by social media but by the merits of the case.  

Once the proceeding starts in court, the public must refrain from any form of discussion online, conduct media trials or otherwise in the interest of justice. If anything is wrong, the courts can hold such persons under contempt and other offences. Parties can also obtain “gag order” to prevent others including the media from talking about the ongoing case.  However, once the judgment is rendered, it is completely right to discuss the decisions of the court including criticizing the decisions since the public can see the full story including rationales applied by the court in such instance.  

Section 96 and 109 of CCPC, the judgment becomes final if no appeal is made within 10 days.  It also mandates the courts make the judgments accessible in the public domain. However, even after more than a decade, the judiciary is reluctant to do this. This duty was imposed on the courts to create transparency in the interest of the judiciary. Many legal systems enjoy a lot of respect and strong public confidence because every decision is made accessible to the public. The public knows the reasons for the court’s decision. 

The lesser the transparency, the more the people will doubt and use social media to gain public sympathy and exert pressure on the system. If judgments are made publicly accessible, the system will progress faster and better.  Sharing information for public discourse on social media is only useful when there is a complete story. The netizens must remember that if only one side of the story is told, there is another side to the story too. It is not right to form opinions based on just one side as such posts may have baleful and abhorrent intentions against the system.  

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.