THE DELHI REPORTERS who cover the Supreme Court are not accustomed to the rapid pace of live news: usually, they wait for the hearings to finish, stroll out of the courtroom, chat with the advocates, and slouch off to file. But on 8 May, the proceedings before the bench were too sensational for any time-lag. The room was packed, and some of the legal reporters came with their own support staff. Mobile phones are not allowed inside the court, so front-benchers taking notes passed chits containing newsflash-worthy quotes to colleagues at the rear, who scurried out to message instant updates back to their newsrooms.
Not everyone in the court that day knew the names of the lawyers, or even the justices, but those details were beside the point; all they had to do was parrot the Court’s words to the public. And so they did: by the end of the day, seemingly all of India (or that portion of it within earshot of a television) knew that the Court had derisively likened the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to a “caged parrot”.
The impetus for this observation was an affidavit that the CBI director, Ranjit Sinha, had been compelled to file before the Court, detailing with whom and for what reason he had shared the draft status reports in the agency’s ongoing investigation of the coal allocation scandal.