7 Jun 2023 8:31 AM GMT
While talking about media trial in criminal cases, the Madras High Court noted that it was important to educate and enlighten the media with regard to the limitations on freedom of speech and expression. The court added that every agency should be able to function on its own without encroaching into the dominion of another agency."Far from empowering the fourth estate to engage itself in...
While talking about media trial in criminal cases, the Madras High Court noted that it was important to educate and enlighten the media with regard to the limitations on freedom of speech and expression. The court added that every agency should be able to function on its own without encroaching into the dominion of another agency.
"Far from empowering the fourth estate to engage itself in such inquisitive ventures, the real need of the hour is to educate and enlighten the media with regard to the limitations on the freedom of speech and expression. Subject to the Constitutional and other statutory limitations, as far as possible, every agency should be able to operate in its own field without encroaching into the dominion earmarked for other agencies," the court observed.
The division bench of Justice MS Ramesh and Justice Anand Venkatesh added that press reporting may in some cases lead to unwarranted publicity and court reporting by "legally challenged reporters" may lead to misguided reports. The court said that these reports will in turn have a counter productive impact.
"Press reporting can generate unwarranted publicity and sensationalism. The journalist’s understanding of the system of administration of justice can be shallow and reporting of Court proceedings by incompetent or legally challenged reporters can result in garbled, distorted and misguided reports. Such report, far from doing any service to the administration of justice by ensuring the required publicity, can have counter productive impact and may even cause subversion of justice. A Judge should be able to decide the merits of a case objectively and in an atmosphere free from the cloud of profusion of public opinion," said the court.
The court noted that though it was not possible for the media to be a silent spectator in a sensational criminal case, the judges must decide the case on merits and free from public opinion.
"The facts of the present case fall under the category of “honour killing”. Hence, there is nothing surprising for the media to have got into conducting parallel prosecution and parallel trial. This is a phenomenon which cannot be completely avoided in an era dominated by social media added to the traditional media and newspapers. The judges must be mature enough to rise to the occasion and shut themselves from the influence of media and go strictly by the procedure established by law," the court said.
The court made these remarks in its decision on the appeals preferred by the ten persons, belonging to a fringe outfit, who were accused of killing a Dalit youth, Gokulraj, for having relations with a woman from Upper Caste. The court confirmed their conviction and also upheld life imprisonment for eight accused. The court commuted the life sentence of two accused and modified the same as rigorous imprisonment for five years along with fine.
The court noted that the prime accused Yuvaraj had used the media to create an impression that a false case was foisted against him. The court also rejected the contention of the appellants that the trial court was influenced by media reports. Looking into the depositions and judgement, the court noted that such a submission cannot be acceded to and that the case was conducted strictly in accordance with law.
Case Title: Yuvaraj v. State (and batch cases)
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 159