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"Exercise Restraint And Follow 'Nilesh Navlakha Case' Guidelines On Media Trial Scrupulously": Bombay High Court To Media

Sparsh Upadhyay
5 March 2021 10:47 AM GMT
Exercise Restraint And Follow Nilesh Navlakha Case Guidelines On Media Trial  Scrupulously: Bombay High Court To Media
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The Bombay High Court on Thursday (04th March) directed media organizations to observe restraint and not publish any content related to the incident of death of a Pune woman who fell from the balcony of her house and subsequently died. The Bench of Justice S. S. Shinde & Justice Manish Pitale also directed the media organizations to scrupulously follow the guidelines which the...

The Bombay High Court on Thursday (04th March) directed media organizations to observe restraint and not publish any content related to the incident of death of a Pune woman who fell from the balcony of her house and subsequently died.

The Bench of Justice S. S. Shinde & Justice Manish Pitale also directed the media organizations to scrupulously follow the guidelines which the Court had laid down in the case of Nilesh Navlakha v. Union of India reported in Aironline 2021 Bom 14 [Sushant Singh Rajput case] and not to give any unnecessary publicity to the illicit relationship of the Woman.

The case before the Court

The Counsel for the petitioner submitted before the Court that on 08th February 2021, Petitioner's daughter fell from the balcony of 1st floor as she lost her balance. She was taken to the hospital wherein she was declared dead.

Soon after the death of the Petitioner's daughter, allegedly, various news in print and electronic media emerged and started circulating reports alleging that his daughter was having illicit relations with one Y.

The Petitioner's Counsel contended before the Court that this act of the media organizations is defamatory and derogatory to the name of the Petitioner and his family, including his daughter X.

Petitioner's counsel also submitted that around 12 audio clips of alleged conversations of daughter X with some unknown person were circulated by political parties and media and contents of the said conversations were to defame the name and image of the Petitioner and his family and his daughter.

It was further submitted that print and electronic media be restrained from further publishing the news and maligning the image of the Petitioner by publishing such news.

On the other hand, the Counsel appearing for Respondent Nos.5, 6, and 7 (Media organizations) submitted that their clients will exercise restraint and will not publish any objectionable contents and they will scrupulously follow the guidelines in the case of Nilesh Navlakha (supra).

Court's Observations

The Court, prima facie, found substance in the argument of the Senior Counsel appearing for the Petitioner and thus, the Court issued notice to the Respondents returnable on 31st March 2021.

Further, by way of ad-interim relief, the Court directed the Respondents to "scrupulously follow the guidelines issued by this Court in paragraphs 348 and 349 of the Judgment in the case of Nilesh Navlakha".

The Court also directed them "not to publish or give any unnecessary publicity to the incident of death of the daughter X of the Petitioner and further alleged illicit relationship of the daughter X with Y."

About Nilesh Navlakha Case

The Bombay High Court, in January 2021, in its 251-page judgment on a clutch of PILs regarding 'media trials' in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, observed that the media ought to avoid reports touching upon an ongoing investigation and present facts that are in the public interest rather than "what, according to the media, the public is interested in."

What Kind Of Reporting Amounts To 'Media Trial'? Bombay High Court Gives Guidelines

The Court in this case had laid down various guidelines for reporting on "sensitive criminal matters, including death by suicide, and had held that the media should avoid putting photographs of victims, depicting the deceased as a weak character, or try to reconstruct the incident while the investigation is underway".

The division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni had directed the print and electronic media to exercise restraint and refrain from publishing any news item, debate, discussion on interview while reporting on certain cases or at a particular stage of investigation (Nilesh Navalakha and others v Union of India and others and connected cases).

The judgment also passed scathing observations against the reports of Republic TV and Times Now in the SSR case, observing such reports were 'prima facie contemptuous'.

Media Trial Interferes With Administration Of Justice; Amounts To Contempt Of Court : Bombay High Court

In this significant pronouncement, the Bombay High Court had held that media trial during criminal investigation interferes with the administration of justice and hence amounts to 'contempt of court' as defined under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

Case title - Lahu Chandu Chavan v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors. [Writ Petition No. 1119 Of 2021]

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