Recently Supreme Court sought responses from the Centre, Press Council of India
and News Broadcasters Association on a Public Interest Litigation seeking for
the setting of the Media Tribunal on complaints against media, channels, and
networks and also plea stated that the electronic media particularly has become
like an unruly horse which needs to be tamed.
It sought the framing of the
guidelines on the power of media which is to be exercised within the ambit of
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The self regulatory mechanism
that the media has exercising make them a judge in their own case so the same
must be regulated by the constitutional norms and principles and also the PIL
“The establishment of an independent, regulatory tribunal or judicial-body,
known can hear and expeditiously adjudicate upon complaint petitions against the
media-businesses filed by the viewers/ citizens. The tribunal can bring about
consequences for acting in a fashion that is contrary to constitutional goals
In India, Media is regarded as the fourth pillar of Indian Democracy and enjoys
rights mentioned in Part III of the Constitution of India as Freedom of Press
recognized under Article 19(1)(a) that freedom of speech and expression also
includes Freedom of Press which is also stated by Hon’ble Supreme Court in
As a matter of right enshrined in Article 21, a suspect or an
accused is entitled to a free and fair trial and is presumed to be innocent
until proven guilty by the court and no one can be allowed to prejudice his case
till the completion of the trail. In India, as of now media creates excessive
coverage while the matter in Court of law and made media trail before the
judgment of the court and even before the investigation is completed in some
cases, for which they publish and covers interviews beyond their domain and
starts their own trail which may have the potential to prejudice the mind of the
Court and Society.
In the unnatural death of Sushant Singh Rajput television media seems to be the
judge and started their media trail by way of taking interviews from the
relatives, close friends, workers and other people who may have related to the
case. Public Interest Litigation is also filed in relation to this case and a
judgment is pronounced namely Nilesh Navalakha and others v.Union of India
in which the Bombay High Court directed print and electronic media to refrain
from a publishing news item, discussion in a panel, articles and interviews in
relation to certain cases especially during a pre-trail stage.
Journalism also sought to spread messages for the probable cause of death and
alleged that Mumbai Police considers homicidal death as suicidal death. Some
channels also show the close relation of Sushant Singh Rajput with an actress
against whom his father reports a First Information Report at Patna naming the
actress accused of an offense.
After the passing of the order by the Supreme
Court for investigation of the case by the Central Bureau of Investigation,
after order being passed the channels who claimed that Police attempts to
declare death as suicidal death which was homicidal death according to the media
which is validated by the order of the Supreme Court.
Many news channels asked
several questions from the police about their investigation, some channels
collect evidences through investigative journalism for the arrest of the actress
and one of them goes to the extent to obtain an opinion from the viewers on
whether the actress should be arrested. Central Bureau of Investigation does not
find any evidence by which she came to be arrested and she was arrested by NCB
and after sometime the actress granted bail after recording a finding that
material collected by NCB does not disclose that she has committed an offense.
Also, in this case, various PIL have been filled which raise a common question
about the role of media in media trail and The Petitioners urges that media
publish and telecast this news in derogation of their legitimate rights are
broadcasting this as irresponsible new program which amounts to interference in
the course of an investigation and makes the process conducted for prosecution
Constitution of India enshrines the right under Article 19(1)(a) with respect to
reasonable restriction and it does not refer to the administration of justice
but someone who creates interference with the interference with justice then it
will refer to criminal contempt under the Contempt of Courts Act 1971 and
Section 3 of this act thereof as contempt. Hence from this, we can say that the
publication, coverage, articles and debates which interfere or tend to interfere
with the administration of justice amount to criminal contempt and this act also
provide with a reasonable restriction on freedom of speech and these
restrictions are regarded as valid.
On the task of presumption of innocence, the Supreme Court in the matter of
Anukul Chandra Pradhan V. Union of India
 1996 6 SCC 354 stated that innocence
should not be destroyed especially due to media trial especially during the
course of an investigation and such process of interference would in derogation
with the rule of law and such process should be in check and balance within the
administration of justice.
Law Commission of India in his 200th report dated August 2006 expressed
concern about rights related to freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom
of free trial. Media involved in investigation and law commission deferred media
from reporting anything prejudicial to the rights of the accused in a criminal
case and to be a judge in their case from the time from arrest to investigation.
Law Commission also concern about infringement of the right to press by
following the self regulatory code which is made by them and no right can
overcome the right to free and fair administration of justice and media has only
the right to show the content in the appropriate manner and right to press can
run concurrently with right of free and fair administration of justice but
cannot suppress the right of free and fair administration of justice.
Freedom of press v. Free Trail
It is well expressed in the judgment of the Supreme Court in matters of R.K.
Anand v. Delhi High Court
2009 8 SCC 106 and also in M.P. Lohia v. State of
West Bengal 2005 2 SCC 686 that the media and court are separate in their
function and their function will not overlap and should not provide any
interference with the administration of justice. Also, media stated to stick to
the act of journalism and not being the special agency which administers justice
and function of both cannot be interchangeable so one cannot use another for the
discharge of other function.
The judgment of Sahara India Real Estate Corporation ltd. v. SEBI
 2012 10 SCC
603 is very significant as in this the Supreme Court discussed about
postponement orders which refers to the judicial orders restraining media on
reporting over a particular case and this done with a motive to provide with
better administration of justice which enshrined in Article 21 of Constitution
Also in OJ Simpson case
of US attracted a lot of pre media trail which gained a
lot of publicity as he was a famous personality since from the time of college
and he is also a famous football who was charged with a criminal trial for the
murder of his ex-wife and her friend and this trail was very famous and
notorious at that time and media tries to downgrade his reputation which he
owned by his hard work and dedication in his lifetime and media just defamed him
within some minutes and deplete his right of free and fair administration of
justice and at last he was acquitted by the US Supreme Court in the criminal
IN case of Best Bakery Case also known as Tulsi Bakery Case involving the
burning of Best Bakery outlet in Vadodra in Gujarat in which National Human
Rights Commission approached the Supreme Court of India on 31 July 2003 under
Article 136 of Constitution of India against the order of Vadodra Fast Track
Court in which 21 people accused of killing 14 people in best bakery massacre
and they were later acquitted and for a fair trial of the case which is
constitutional imperative and is highly recognized under Article 14, 19, 21, 22
and 39 A of Constitution of India as well as various provisions of Crpc.
Supreme Court also felt displeasure in acquittal of the accused. Majority of
Indian media expressing anger against the wrong period of acquittal and play a
key role in creating sympathy against those who has given false evidence in the
court of law and also there are many questions unanswered which to be answered
like the role of media in judging a case and do they have right to judge a
person without the knowledge of the law.
Self Regulation by Media
Media is regarded as a very very important part for Indian Democracy as it
suppresses the various major scandals which occurs and which is shown by a sting
operation by a news organization called Cobrapost which stated that media showed
biasness towards the ruling party and cost of a journalist taking money in
return for pushing a political agenda. This organization is known for stings and
also reference in taken of India ranking in 2017 World Press Freedom Index and
also put some serious allegation on the media organizations.
Kovind, not Covid, did it's article published by the author which has nothing
to do with coronavirus but has to mock that with the pandemic situation and the
thing that he insulted a national leader who is President of India and a
respected leader coming from a Dalit background and has many followers on the
social media sites and someone tries to downgrade reputation with the article.
Some things which not Telecast by media platform:
- News channels who interview the witness concerning a particular case and
sometimes even cross-examine the same and at this time they function as an
adjudicator, prosecutor and the court and sometimes even before the
investigation is completed, these should be prohibited when we concerning
about proper administration of justice.
- Media also frequently came in way of investigative agencies and results
in the prohibition of their work and they are keen that they got some news
from that officer that results in misscarge of justice.
- Past some time media shows the dead body of Sushant Singh Rajput which
is insensitive in nature
- Media trail which results in investigative nature which was done before
taking the evidence by the authority result in the mass violation of rights
and which impairs the rights of free and fair adjudication and right to
freedom of press is valid upto the mark upto which it does not impair with the right to
fair and free adjudicatory process.
Cable Television Networks (Regulations) Act 1995 also stated several
restrictions and has to abide by the rules under this act as:
- Against decency
- Against obscene, defamatory, false and half truth which may also result
in contempt of court
- Against critique against someone and against certain groups
- Depiction of Women in manner of decency or indecency as defined in
Indecent Representation of Women Act 1986
- Against provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952
How it is affecting the administration of the trail
- While considering the accused side, the media guarded them and prevent
the investigative agency from collecting the evidence for the prosecution
and by preventing them they start their own investigation and collect
evidence without regarding the authenticity of the evidence and show them
like it being certified.
- While g innocent person side, media after getting information of
accusation against an innocent person they start their trail by themselves
without an investigation being completed and they show their evidence
collected by them and try to prove them guilty without the interference from
the court which results in the risk of reputation which is made after
several years of efforts and they destroys it within a day.
- While considering the witness side, the investigative agencies try to
prevent the disclosure of identity and media by way of their network try to
disclose their identity which might result in the risk of the life of
witness and if the witness is vital for the proper prosecution of the same
then the trail may be affected and by this right of free and fair
administration of trail is also affected.
- While considering the investigator side, media follows the track as
followed by investigating officer and tries to prevent their way in the
course of examination and also creates unnecessary pressure during the
course of the investigation which is considered to be crucial and also
sometimes media takes interviews of them tried to accept them with loopholes
which is made during the investigation which are undesirable and results in
an improper investigation.
As we all know that media is called the fouth pillar of democracy and plays a
vital role;e in democracy by raising important issues among government and draws
national attention. Article 19 of the Constitution of India grants right to
freedom of expression to all citizen which also include freedom of the press as
a fundamental right and does not give right in interference of administration of
justice which has been faced by the accused in recent times.
The Supreme Court has taken the matter very serious in the case of Rajendra Sain
that for rule of law and orderly society, freedom of the press and an
independent judiciary are both indispensables.
- Prijwal Kumar
- Amartya Raj