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'Reputation A Facet of Article 21' : Delhi Court Slams Media For Publishing News Against Umar Khalid Without Verifying All Facts In Riots Case

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
23 Jan 2021 4:48 PM GMT
Reputation A Facet of Article 21 : Delhi Court Slams Media For Publishing News Against Umar Khalid Without Verifying All Facts In Riots Case
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In a significant order, a Delhi Court has criticized media for publishing the alleged confessional statements of Umar Khalid in Delhi riots conspiracy cases, without clarifying that such confessions are not admissible in evidence."The news reports have only highlighted that accused Umar Khalid had confessed his involvement... However, none of the news item is shown to have made...

In a significant order, a Delhi Court has criticized media for publishing the alleged confessional statements of Umar Khalid in Delhi riots conspiracy cases, without clarifying that such confessions are not admissible in evidence.

"The news reports have only highlighted  that accused Umar Khalid had confessed his involvement... However, none of the news item is shown to have made a clarification to its readers/viewers that such a statement, even if actually made, could not be used by the prosecution as evidence", observed the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate North East, Karkardooma Courts, Delhi.

The Court said that a reporter should have a basic knowledge of law that a confessional statement made to a police official is not admissible as evidence in law and should inform an ordinary reader about the same while reporting an alleged confession.

"A reporter should have such a basic knowledge of law as readers/viewers consider news item as true without verifying the facts.Further, general public might not be aware of the law as above mentioned. Therefore, it is duty of the Press and Media to inform and educate its readers and viewers about all the relevant facts and circumstances of a news item published or shown on the News channel", the CMM Dinesh Kumar noted in the order.

The Court was considering an application filed by JNU student leader Umar Khalid - who has been under custody since September 14 last year - complaining about media campaign that he has confessed his involvement in the conspiracy behind the communal riots which took place in North East Delhi in February 2020.

The Court took a specific objection to a news item which started with with words "Radical Islamist and Anti Hindu Delhi Riots accused Umar Khalid....".

"In one of the news items, the news starts with words "Radical Islamist and Anti Hindu Delhi Riots accused Umar Khalid....". The said news item portrays the entire Delhi riots as Anti-Hindu Riots. However, in fact this does not appear to be the case, as all the communities have felt the consequences of those riots. Such news item might show to the public at large that accused Umar Khalid had in fact confessed/admitted his role in Delhi riots. However, it is the duty of the judicial system to decide a case on merits after trial".


Media trial cannot destroy presumption of innocence

The Court observed that one of the basic principles of criminal jurisprudence is presumption of innocence. The most important role of the media is its ability to mobilize the thinking process of a large number of the population.However, there exists a risk of prejudice being caused if the press and media fail to do their duty with care and caution. One of such risk is that of 'Media Trial', the Court said.

The Court cautioned that 'media trial' cannot destroy the presumption of innocence.

"This should not be destroyed at the very threshold through the process of media trial. Protection of such presumption is essential for maintenance of the dignity ofthe courts and is one of the cardinal principles of the rule of law in a free democratic country".

Since Khalid did not make any specific prayer in the application, the Court did not issue any specific direction, except making a general appeal that the media should exercise 'self-regulation' so as not to cause prejudice to the rights of an accused during trial.

"Considering the fact that the applicant/accused has not made any specific prayer in the present application, I -hope that the reporters would use self regulations techniques while publishing or showing a news item related to a case pending investigation or trial so that nop rejudice is caused to any accused or any other party. Self regulation is the best mode of regulation", the CMM said.

The bench stated the the reputation of a person is his valuable asset and is a facet of his right under Article 21 of the Constitution.

"Any act of the Media which might deprive the accused of his dignity would have an adverse effect on his rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India", the order said.

The Court concluded by saying :

"Therefore, any news item should be published after verifying and clarifying all the facts related to the said news item".

Notably, earlier this week the Bombay High Court had delivered a judgment holding that 'media trial' even during the stage of criminal investigation will amount to 'criminal contempt' as an interference with the administration of justice. The judgment of the High Court, passed in a batch of PILs filed in the wake of 'media trial' in Sushant Singh Rajput Case, observed that media should not publish alleged confessional statements of accused without clarifying that such statements cannot be received as evidence in court.

Click here to read/download the order













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