Media Trial Case: Bombay High Court Questions News Channels on Reportage of Sushant's Case
The Bombay High Court observed that the channels appeared to have disregarded basic norms and etiquettes of journalism, particularly while reporting on the suicide of a public figure.
Bombay High Court questioned news channels during the hearing
The Bombay High Court held marathon hearings in the PILs against media trials. During the hearing, the Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni questioned the news channels on their reportage in the Sushant Singh Rajput case and asked, “Is it your job to supervise investigations?”
The Court orally observed that the channels appeared to have disregarded basic norms and etiquettes of journalism, particularly while reporting on the suicide of a public figure.
While raising concerns on the kind of ‘investigative journalism’ being carried out by news channels and pointing out how news channels with their sensational headlines and interviews forgot all the basic norms and etiquettes of reporting on a sensitive topic, the court commented,
"Putting up messages on the channel and then discussing evidence, is that investigative journalism?" "You did not even leave the deceased! Forget the witnesses."- Bombay HC
The High Court chastised the channel for sensationalising the actor’s death. “There are certain Suicide Reporting guidelines,” it pointed out. “There should be no sensational headlines. Don’t you have respect for the dead? It is so unfortunate.”
Court questions the government for leaving airwaves unregulated
“Why are you not regulating the airwaves?” the Court asked the government
During the hearing, the Court asked Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the Central Government, on how the government was not regulating the airwaves, which was public property, leaving it open to misuse by the media.
The Additional Solicitor General clarified that while the State owns airwaves, it cannot control the content being transmitted through the airwaves.
Several channels made their submissions
Republic TV’s counsel had earlier told the court that the channel was carrying out investigative journalism to “unearth the facts” relating to the case and that the term ‘media trial’ is being stretched by a certain section of the society and not all the citizens.
Trivedi pointed out that the media played an important role in pointing out defects in the government functionaries in several cases, not just the Sushant Singh case. “There are defects in the investigation. Who looks at the defects? Will there be supervision on every investigation? Is that your role?”
The Court asked the news channels to what extent they were willing to go for reporting news.
“Why not read provisions of Criminal Procedure Code before putting out details if you care so much about the truth?” the Court asked Advocate Kunal Tandon (for Times Now) who submitted "To understand the news, the whole news must be seen, not piecemeal."
Lawyers from ABP News channel, Aaj Tak, Zee News and India Today emphasise on self-regulation
Senior Advocates Arvind Datar and Siddharth Bhatnagar’s submitted that there were three checks to ensure that the “Lakshman Rekha" is maintained by media channels, i.e.: Self-regulating associations; The Central Government’s ministerial committee, and Courts.
He emphasized that “judiciary has been considered as a third pillar to keep a check on the fourth pillar as per precedents."
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