MEDIA TRIAL

By: Kriti Agrawal

Introduction

 Our democracy is depended on four pillars and media is appraised as one of the fourth Pillar. It has the capability of molding the point through which people can become aware of different events. Media started playing an active role to find the accused and bring him to the judgement.

According to the article 19(1)(a)of the constitution of India every person has the freedom of speech and expression it includes media also and in democratic country there should be active participation of people. It is there right to be informed about the problems of the society and how these problems can be tackled and managed. But for this people need a source which transfer information to them in a truthful manner. However, there are different scenario of a situation. But media, on which people believe that they can transmit the truth to them, nowdays doing there jobs for the salaries. Today trial by media is a needless interference in the process of justice.

Media has now converted itself in a public court which are interfering into court proceedings. Now, media started its own investigation by this they prejudices the public and sometimes judges and which results the accused, that should be innocent is supposed to be the criminal. So, there should not be excessive publicity of the accused and the case because it can affect the fair trial. Unfortunately, rules and ethics designed for the media are insufficient to keep the infringement of civil rights.

As there is article 19(2) of the constitution of India which puts restrictions on the rights of freedom of speech and expression. This article mention the basis on which restrictions can be imposed it can be imposed restrictions to protect the public interest. If there is proper applicability of this article on media then there can be a proper balanced.

For instance, in sheena bohra murder case[1], media have penetrated the life of the accused, indrani mukhrejea which  become a topic for debate on the issue of media trial. They revealed every situations of her personal life which had nothing related to the investigation of the murder. This is the situation where number of questions arosed on the ethics of media.

Not only Sheena bohra murder case, there are many other cases in which the accused were left unpunished because of the intervention of media, that are Nitish katara murder case, Jessica lal case and priyadarshini Matto case etc. Again in Aarushi talwar murder case[2], they reported that her own father Dr. Rajesh talwar and her mother nupur talwar were involved and in her murder, but later CBI declared that her father Rajesh talwar was not the killer.

So, from above cases the meaning of media trial should be clear that it so the impact of media on the reputation of the person by creating a perception of guilt. There are many reasons why the media attention is particularly extreme surrounding a case that are:-

  1. When the crime itself in away fascinating, by being horrific or when there is an involvement of children.
  2. When there is the involvement of celebrity in the case as a victim or the accused.

But, it has to be kept in mind that whenever there is a sensitive case from which the court is dealing like rape cases, child and women trafficking etc., Then media should report that facts which are relevant. Media should avoid the situations where the facts are offensive and can have a negative impact on the society. They have to keep the identity of the victim and the accused so that they can be safe in the society. They should not given a right to write about the past life of the victim and accused which do not have connection with the case.

History

When article19(1)(a) was formed there was o bit confusion whether this article also cover freedom of press or not. Then clearing all doubts the chairman of drafting committee, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar that the press is the part of the citizens only and if any person choose to represent any newspaper or channel then it is considered that he is exercising his right given under article19 (1)(a) but they are not entitled for the special rights.[3]

Case:-romesh thappar v/s state of madras[4]

In 1950, justice patanjali shastri stayed that the freedom of speech and freedom of press put at the foundation of all democratic organisations, for without free political discussion no public education, so essential for the proper functioning of the process of popular government is possible.

Case:- Maneka Gandhi v/s Union of India[5]

Justice P.N. bhagawati also expressed that the democracy is based on open discussion it means the government of the people, by the people and for the people so every person has right to speak and express freely including media also.

But the above judgement will proved right when it is applied in those conditions where the facts are represented are relevant and in the truthful manner.

The first press commission also stated for the confusion arise at the time when article19(1)(a) was made that the article involves freedom of speech and freedom of expression so the freedom of press like newspapers and articles is the way to express the thoughts. So there is no doubt that media has also fundamental right to express guaranteed under article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.

Arnold v/s king emperor[6]expressed the position of press in the context of India.

The privy council of India expressed that the journalist has a right to speak and express freely about the events, but apart from statue law, his position is not higher then any law. The responsibilities of journalist to publish a matter may, and in case of diligent journalist do, make him more careful, but he has no rights  to put comments out of the limit.

It can be observed from the above judgement that media are not entitled for special rights they should be aware about there responsibility towards the society.

The first press conference was held in may,1893 in Chicago where various topics were  discussed like international role of press, press and public morals and press as a defender of human rights.[7]

Law commission’s 200th report

200th report by the law commission of India says that if media tries an unrestricted freedom In presenting facts of a case and hinder the mind set of public and present a suspect or an accused and if he is already considered as guilty before the fair trial, there can be the possibility of accused prejudice. It can be observed that high intervention of media can misguide the fair trial and the person who can be the innocent can be declared as needless intervention with the direction of decency and held as contempt of court. Revealing the witnesses and accused can endangers their life.

The points that can be taken from law commission’s 200th report that any declaration made on the electronic media after the person’s arrest, stations that he has convinced his crime or he is guilty with his photograph is treated as the violation of the right to get the fair trial of the accused.

It can be observed that if media tries to intervene in the case and published about the accused and after that if he finds as the innocent then the person cannot rebuild his lost image in the society.

It can be seen in the Uma khurana case. She was a school teacher in old Delhi. Because of the wrong sting operation performed by the live India in 2013, claiming her that she forced the students into prostitution, she was badly beaten with the mob and get put in that jail. But after deep investigation it was found that she was not the real culprit, another person is the culprit and she was caught also. But after this incident no amount of monetary comp nation can claim her lost respect for n the society.

Overall, Media trial started ignoring article 19(1)(a) which puts restrictions on the right s given to the person in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India.

Is media trial needs to be punished?

Media trial is contempt of court and it needs to be punished. It can be done by identifying it as civil and criminal.

Criminal contempt is divided into three types:-

  1. Scandalising
  2. Prejudicing trial
  3. Hindering the administration of justice.

According to the natural justice every person has a right to fair trial but when there is media trial it prejudice with the judicial process.


[1] Code of criminal procedure 1963, The Indian evidence act 1872.

[2] Code of criminal procedure 1963,The Indian evidence act,1872.

[3] Constituent assembly debates, dated 2-12-48 at p.780.

[4] A.I.R. 1950 S.C. 124.

[5] (1978) 1 S.C.C. 248.

[6] (1914) 18 C.W.N. 785 (P.C.).

[7] Ibid; at p. 132.