The Supreme Court on Monday asked the media not to drag the name of any person figuring in the controversial Niira Radia tapes until the case was decided by it as dignity of every individual was precious.
It even warned journalists of being hauled up if the 'Laxman Rekha' is crossed.
A bench of justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly while warning the media from crossing the 'Laxman Rekha' chided it for 'distorted' reporting of the court proceedings during the past three weeks on the 2G spectrum.
"Till we decide nobody's name should be dragged in the media. The image of a person should not be tarnished. All of us know that the most priced right is the right to dignity and none of the right is above it," it observed.
Taking umbrage at the 'distorted' reporting, the court asked media not to 'take risk' by such reports but added it valued the role of press as 'watchdog' of the society.
"They must not cross the Laxman Rekha. They are crossing the limits every day. From now on they would do it at their own peril. For three weeks there has been distorted versions of the proceedings of this court. This is most unfortunate. We will not ignore any nonsense henceforth."
Justice Singhvi said, he was aghast to see the telecast in a news channel on certain queries raised by it on Union Home Secretary G K Pillai's purported remarks on the tapes
"My wife asked me what type of orders you are passing," Justice Singhvi remarked amidst laughter, citing the reported telecast by a news channel, which had used the word that Pillai was 'slammed' by the apex court.
"They said SC raps Home Secretary. What is the language they use," he asked, referring to certain queries raised by it on Pillai's remarks on the contents of the tape.
The bench said it would not tolerate any attempt by the media to tarnish the image of any individual or counsel appearing in the case as every individual's dignity was paramount.
The apex court said the media should conduct itself in a responsible manner as the society appreciates its role in democracy.
"Distorted reports are appearing in the media. We are making it very clear nobody will be allowed to tarnish the image of the counsel. There are exchanges of words in the court. They do not constitute an order or direction. It should stop as till now we have ignored. Now we are making it clear, don't take the risk of being hauled up. We are making it very clear nobody will be allowed to play with the proceedings of the court. Use restraint in reporting the views," the bench advised the media.
"Most irresponsible reports are appearing. They (media) are watchdog of democracy. Everybody appreciates the role of media and the important contribution they make," the bench observed.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati intervened to complain that a section of the media had "misreported" that he had tendered an apology to the court during the hearing.
Senior counsel Harish Salve appearing for Rata Tata maintained that a "delicate balance" has to be struck between a "free media and individual's privacy." He submitted that many media houses in the country were backed by corporate houses.
He said Outlook and India Today group and CNN -IBN had huge investments from companies.
The counsel said the conversations being reported by media mostly centred on third party conversations, which "may be true or untrue."
Citing an editorial in a newspaper on the centre's affidavit in the Radia tapes, he said, "This kind of reports must stop".
However, senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for Outlook magazine, complained that statements are being made across the bar without providing any written material
He wanted Salve to put the same in the form of written submission so that a comprehensive reply could be filed.