Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution provide the right to a fair trial and investigation. The same has been stated correctly in Zahira Habibullah Sheikh (v) State of Gujarat. In India, a criminal trial does not commence until the accused has been charged by a competent court. This right is routinely blocked by media trials. The representation of the accused in the popular media, as well as the consequences that he must face in nearly all situations despite the final judgement of the court of law, is a source of concern for all democratic, republican, and rule of law systems.
If the media makes a direct or indirect pronouncement on the merits of a pending matter, or generates public opinion on guilt or innocence in criminal prosecutions, it enters the jurisdiction of the courts. The topic of whether the press or media has overstepped its bounds is a recurring one. The Constitution does not expressly recognise press freedom in the same way that the US Constitution does, but the Supreme Court has read an important status to it.
The country recently erupted in outrage and expressed severe concern over the scandalous case of late actor Sushant Singh Rajput. The media had told the full scenario of the late actor’s death in such a way that the general public would believe in the indictee’s culpability. The media had gone even further, publishing information based on simple assumptions and suspicions regarding the course of investigation being pursued by government agencies.
Freedom of press and media is not an ‘absolute freedom’ and is subject to certain limitations contained in article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court correctly concluded that ultimate, unrestricted press freedom at all times and in all circumstances would result in chaos and anarchy. The court distinguished between trial by media and informative media in the matter of Siddharth Vashisht (v) State NCT of Delhi. When individuals are informed of news and viewpoints, the media assumes an informative role. When the media, on the other hand, suggestively pronounces the merits of a controversy at large, it steps into the jurisdiction of the courts. The presumption of innocence, which is as fundamental as free expression, is jeopardised when the media declares or establishes public opinion on guilt or innocence. As a result, it is critical that the media trial be deemed neither competent nor permissible.
It is significant to highlight many instances in which the media has acted as an angel in disguise. The media acted as an activist and reported incidences of sexual crime in the well-known case of Delhi gang rape in 2012, known as the Nirbhaya case. Following efforts to erase evidence of the crime, the latest Hathras rape case caused outrage among Indians. Here too, the torchbearers of the revolution were the media houses.
India has a long and illustrious history of fiercely independent journalism. The media’s efforts have had a positive influence in that more Indians are now aware of their constitutional rights than ever before. however, it should refrain from generating an opinion by conducting its own inquiry and trial in parallel. Furthermore, when a case is tried by the media, justice is frequently denied, as well as diverted, by turning a tragedy into a sensational play. The media is a cornerstone of a democracy that works for the greater good of the society, but coverage of a case should not obstruct the legal process.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge