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Media Trial Does It Have An Effect On Our Justice System?

Media has a great influence over the public of the country. Newspapers, news channels, radio and television don't only spread the information but they also assist in controlling the stories which the public may discuss later. Crimes receive a wide coverage which makes it challenging for the prosecutors and attorneys.

The judges and juries are required to give an impartial judgment regardless to what the media is covering. However, the media might influence the police officers in the duration of giving out case-related information. TRIAL BY MEDIA is a popular term used in the 21st century which is used to impact the television, newspapers etc on the kind of reputation the person holds.

The influence of media trial came into attention in The Jessica Lal Case. Media's role was also discussed during Priyadarshini Mattoo Case and many more where the media was blamed for the influence over the judgement passed by the court. There is no backing of trial by media in the Indian Constitution. Media refers to Article 19 of the constitution which says freedom of speech and expression of the public although Article 19 says right to expression and speech but the media trials are not included. Media plays a very important role over the political and social disclosures. The media is one of the most important pillars of democracy around the globe.

Influence Of Media Over The Society

Nowadays, the media influence has become a part of many people's behaviour and minds. Just by pressing one button the information is out to the world no matter if the information is true or false it just turns as gossip and people start talking about it. We might not realise but somewhere, the media affects us mentally, physically and emotionally. The contented stories are covered and telecasted with no dependency of the fact being true or not. The media expects the public to believe everything they say or show and not question them.

According to a report by the Global Web Index 54% of the daily media is online, 12% of the people watch television, 12% people access online blogs, 28% of the people use all sorts of social media platforms. This shows the continuous access to news and knowing what's going on around the world.

The media can even influence the thinking-process of any individual. Like for an example times like this where COVID-19 has become a world pandemic the media and news channels every morning will telecast how many people died, number of new cases which automatically creates fear in a person's mind, whereas if the show number of recoveries this might motivate the public and help them fight the pandemic. Media changes the view of people which can have both negative and positive impacts. The media does nothing but just manipulate the people's mind.

The Media And Its Effect On Criminal Justice System?

Media has a totally different group of people to handle high-profile cases in the criminal justice system. This may also influence the way the trial procedure which includes the witness, evidence and important elements.

I have focused my article and my analysis on the following cases which show the influence of media on us and the criminal justice system:
  • The Sheena Bohra's Murder Case
  • The Priyadarshini Mattoo Case
  • The Jessica Lal Case
  • The Murder of Arushi Talwar
  • The Nirbhaya Case
  1. The Sheena Bohra Murder Case:

    after watching certain videos over YouTube, one gathers about that Sheen Bohra was a Metro Manger and was reported missing in april 2012. Months later the police took three individuals named Indrani Mukherjee(mother), Sanjeev Khanna (step-father) and Shyamvar Pinturam Rai ( Indrani's Driver) into custody in the impression that they abducted her, murdered her and later burned her. Mother claimed that Sheena was staying in the USA and alive.

    As per the videos uploaded over the internet the media has focused more on their personal life of the accused. The media even covered private information of the accused which was not relevant to the case. But since the time Indrani Mukherjee was arrested the media had concluded that she was accountable of murdering her daughter based on some circumstantial evidence way before the trials began.

  2. The Priyadarshini Mattoo Case:

    there were many sources to find material on this case YouTube, Google etc that Priyadarshini Mattoo was found raped and murdered in her house in 1996. After a long 10 years i.e. 2006 the High Court of New Delhi was firm that Santosh Kumar Singh was the one who attempted the rape and the murder. The Court handed him the death sentence. A year later, the death sentence was turned into life imprisonment by the Supreme Court of India. Later the media pulled out censorious information which had not been presented in the court during the trials. The information and evidence given out by the media were so strong that it led to the Criminal Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Later the high court quashed Santosh Kumar Singh with death sentence.

    In this case the media made sure that justice was served. The media pulled out the information due to which justice was surely delayed but not denied.

  3. The Jessica Lal Case:

    Jessica was a model who was shot to death in April 1999 at a social party witnessed by many people present there, all those people who were there in the party claimed that Manu Sharma was the one who shot her. Father of Manu Sharma was influential and rich. After the long and lengthy trials Manu Sharma and his friends were held liable and the court handed them life imprisonment by the High Court of India, December 2006. And was expected to be released in the year 2023 as per the law. But, unfortunately Manu Shrama was released before he completed his sentence in June 2020.

    Even in this case the media played a very important role as Jessica belonged to a middle-class family. The members of the family welcomed the media. The involvement of the media got different facts out related to the case and didn't stop until justice was served. The involvement of the media was in a favour of the case.

  4. The Murder of Aarushi Talwar:

    Aarushi Talwar who was allegedly murdered by her parents who are doctors by profession on May, 2008. From all the research one thing was crystal clear that the media had heavy coverage over this case. Due to the media coverage the girl who died literally had her character assassinated there were many allegations against her which again was not related to the case. The Talwars were proclaimed guilty by the media before the CBI or Court did. The biggest question raised in this case was Can The Creators Be The Destructor?

    Based on circumstantial evidence the media pronounced it's verdict by calling Aarushi's parents guilty. Later in the year 2017 the Allahabad High Court freed the Talwar's of all the charges.

    Now will the news channels or the people actively involved in the media apologise for the mistrial?

Unethical Behaviour Of The Media

Today the media is not only about finding truth or seeking justice, it's somewhere about TRPs, revenue, profit. Often to create or cover any news they allow themselves to behave unethical, crossing the limits of decency. Effect of the media is not only positive, it's negative too. Twisting all the facts of the case that it can create some sensational news.

Paid News and Media which is a threat to media and it's creditability. People sometimes find it hard to believe the news telecasted on the television. People have to choose which channel to watch which show's authentic news.

There is nobody perfect and not even the media. Media is like a guard-dog in democracy. It keeps the government and public informed. The current media conditions are not very inspiring and some major matters need to be addressed. The freedom of press is a blessing to the people. However, this blessing can go wrong when the manipulations start.

Especially in a country like India, the media is an integral part. The trial is much affected by what the media is showing. The media should be given some restrictions that it stops affecting the people involved in the case and outside the case. Instead of adding MASALA to the news they should show more of news which people really need to know.

Written By: Palak Sinha

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