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'Self-Regulation Of Media Has Failed', Says Bombay HC In Plea Against 'Media Trial' In SSR Case

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
16 Oct 2020 10:21 AM GMT
Self-Regulation Of Media Has Failed, Says Bombay HC In Plea Against Media Trial In SSR Case
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The Bombay High Court on Friday expressed concerns at the lack of regulation on the electronic and urged the Central Government to think of appropriate measures to control the problem of "trial by media".A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice G S Kulkarni wondered why there was no statutory regulatory body for the electronic media like the Press Council of India,...

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The Bombay High Court on Friday expressed concerns at the lack of regulation on the electronic and urged the Central Government to think of appropriate measures to control the problem of "trial by media".

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice G S Kulkarni wondered why there was no statutory regulatory body for the electronic media like the Press Council of India, which oversees the print media.

The bench made these significant oral remarks while hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigation(PIL) petitions seeking to regulate "media trial" in the case relating to the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

"For the print media there is a Press Council. For cinemas there is a Censor Board. Why can't you think of a similar statutory body for the electronic media?", CJ Dipankar Dutta asked Anil Singh, Assistant Solicitor General of India.

The ASG submitted that the courts have time and again ruled out external regulation for media and stressed on self-regulation.

The bench replied that the self-regulation mechanism for media has failed.

"We are concerned with the efficiency of the present mechanism. Once the self-regulation has failed, what should be the remedy? That is the concern.We are in that situation, where the self-regulation has failed", Justice Kulkarni remarked.

The Chief Justice warned that if appropriate action was not taken "the entire system will break down".

"The entire system will break down. The cherished values of our founding fathers will become irrelevant. What about the preamble? There is no fraternal feeling left", he said.

"Media has a fundamental right to freedom. But that cannot be used to infringe the rights of others. This cannot go unregulated", Justice Kulkarni added.

The Chief Justice stressed that a balance has to be maintained between the right to freedom of speech, right to fair trial and right to reputation.

The bench said that it was not against investigative journalism but there are certain boundaries that should not be crossed. It takes years of hardwork to build up a reputation which can be ruined with a single report.

The Court asked the Union Ministry to treat the situation as an "SOS".

The ASG replied that he understood the concerns of the court and assured that he will convey the same to the department.

"Till now we were also expecting that the media will self-regulate and will act in a responsible manner. But when time changes, we have to think about it. We are working on this seriously", he told the bench.

"That is the only hope we have that you are looking into it", Justice Kulkarni told the ASG.

The bench opined that in such situations are for the executive and the legislature to address.

During the beginning of the hearing, the ASG referred to the Supreme Court judgment in Sahara case, which refrained to frame guidelines for media reporting on sub-judice matters.

The apex court said that orders to postpone publications can be passed by the concerned courts in specific cases on 'aggrieved persons' should 'real and tangible prejudice to a fair trial'. There cannot be a general direction to postpone publications, Singh said, 

Singh submitted that the present cases were PILs where none of the petitioners were personally affected by the offending reports. He also pointed out that the Supreme Court has expressly ruled out prior restraint on publications.

At the same time, he added that the Union of India's position was against "media trial".

The bench has adjourned the hearing till Monday(October 19), when Senior Advocate Arvind P Datar is slated to make submissions on behalf of the News Broadcasters Standards Association(NBSA).

Complete updates from the hearing may be read at the twitter thread given below :




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