29 Oct 2020 9:26 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court on Thursday indicated that it was thinking of laying down guidelines for the media reporting on ongoing criminal investigations."We would like the media not to cross boundaries", observed a division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice G S Kulkarni which is hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigations(PILs) seeking regulation of "media trial" in...
The Bombay High Court on Thursday indicated that it was thinking of laying down guidelines for the media reporting on ongoing criminal investigations.
"We would like the media not to cross boundaries", observed a division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice G S Kulkarni which is hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigations(PILs) seeking regulation of "media trial" in the context of reporting of the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.
The Chief Justice illustrated several scenarios to the Assistant Solicitor General of India, Mr. Anil Singh, to explain the ill-effects of unregulated media reporting on pending investigations.
"If there is excessive reporting, that can put a criminal on guard, and he may resort to destroying evidence or absconding", the CJ said.
Next, the CJ spoke about the impact of such kind of reporting on an innocent person.
"If the person is actually innocent, the excessive media reporting can damage his reputation".
"If media identifies that a person is a very vital witness, he could be won over, threatened, or he could be even physically harmed so that he does not give evidence", the CJI continued.
The CJI then observed that the media reporting could influence the investigating officers as well.
"Think of a police officer. Can anyone be guaranteed that he will not be influenced? He may be following a particular track, which could be the right track. Media says no no this must be the track. He loses track and rounds up innocent".
"Is this welcome in a society governed by rule of law? The submission made is that this is part of investigative journalism. What is investigative journalism?To lay bare the truth", the CJ reflected.
The Chief Justice asked if there is any law that says that whatever investigation agency collected as evidence should be laid before the public.
"Where is the obligation for the investigating officer to disclose evidence?", he asked.
"How does the Post Mortem report comes to the media unless of course it is disclosed? Should we lay down guidelines on these aspects?", he further asked.
He next commented :
"Media says it is aiding the investigation. Most welcome. But go to the police under Sections 37/38 of the CrPC and give information to them".
The Chief Justice said that the court will consider the issues :
"This is one area where we expect some arguments. We are not guided by any precedent. We are not shown with any precedent dealing with pre-chargesheet scenario", the Chief Justice told the ASG.
The bench said that it will also keep within its boundaries while deciding on the issues.
The ASG has been asked to make submissions on the queries and the observations made by the bench. The court will next consider the case on November 6.
Earlier in the day, the Senior Advocate Aspi Chinoy, appearing in the PIL filed by eight ex-officers of Maharashtra police, submitted that the Court has the power to lay down guidelines in the matter. He argued that the Central Government has failed to act against 'trial by media' by exercising its powers under the Cable TV Regulation Act. The self-regulation mechanism of the media has also failed. In such circumstances, Chinoy submitted, the court should step in to ensure that the right to free trial and the presumption of innocence are not undermined.
"The Government has not taken any action over the past three months on the media trial(in SSRCase). Is this called the 'robust system'? If they had acted, we would not have come here", Chinoy submitted.
During the previous hearings, the bench had made strong remarks against the pattern of reporting followed in the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
Reports about previous hearings may be read below :
'Asking Public About Who To Be Arrested Is Investigative Journalism?' Bombay HC Asks Republic TV In SSR Media Trial Case
'If You Become Investigator, Prosecutor & Judge, Why Are We Here?' Bombay HC Expresses Concerns Over Media Trial
Media Highly Polarized Now; Journalists Were Responsible & Neutral In Past, Bombay High Court Says While Hearing SSR Media Trial Case
'Self-Regulation Of Media Has Failed', Says Bombay HC In Plea Against 'Media Trial' In SSR Case