Media Trial: Right or Wrong

Introduction

The media has been called the handmaiden of justice, the watchdog of society, and therefore the judiciary- the dispenser of justice and catalyst of social reforms. The media and Judiciary share a typical bond and work harmoniously to get the reality, uphold democratic values and deal with social, economic, and political problems. It can build or malign the image of an individual simultaneously by influencing and revolutionizing the masses. In recent times, the journalistic landscape of India has been suppressed under various media trials which have resulted in the tab, emphasizing the indispensable need for changes.

The principle of fair trial and legal rule are the 2 most pivotal pillars of the criminal justice system which are being overlooked by the media, but there are numerous instances where the media has justified its role in conducting media trials. At the identical time, the media rather than conducting media trials should perform its responsibilities instead of transgressing within the work of the judiciary.

Trial by media is a recently coined term and it’s wont to denote a facet of media activism. These are generally defined as national or regional news events within which the criminal justice system is co-opted as the source of high drama and entertainment. Independent Judiciary and public press both are concomitant of Constitutional democracy.

In recent years, with the expansion of cable television, local radio, and newspapers the range and reach of media have increased lots. This continuously expanding readership and viewership have given our journalism organizers, an unprecedented role in shaping popular opinions and preferences. The expression ‘trial by media’ itself is a misnomer. The word trial is nowhere defined in Civil Procedure Code and Criminal procedure Code. Blacks’ law dictionary defines it as a formal, judicial examination of evidence and determination of legal claims in adversary proceedings. If so, there can’t be any trial by the media. But these words are wont to denote an exercise undertaken by media; virtually usurping roles of judicial forums that such exercise has been earmarked by the laws of the land. just in the case of R.K.Anand v. Delhi High Court 2009 Vol.8 SCC 106, Supreme Court has interpreted trial by media within the following words “the impact of television and newspaper’s coverage on a person’s reputation by creating a widespread perception of guilt irrespective of any verdict during a court of law. During high publicity cases, media are often accused of provoking an environment of public hysteria comparable to rout which not only makes a good trial impossible but means no matter the results of the trial, publicly perception accused is already held guilty and wouldn’t be able to live the remainder of his life without intense public scrutiny.”

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION VIS-A-VIS FREEDOM OF PRESS

“The tension between courts and media revolves around two general concerns- the primary is that there should be no trial by media and the second is that it’s not for the press and anyone else to prejudge a case. Justice demands that individuals should be tried by courts of law and not be pilloried by the press”.

Constitution enshrines the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 and the right to free trial under Article -21 of the constitution. Kishori Mohan v State of West Bengal, AIR 1972 SC 1749, this can be one right that permits the aam-janta to participate in activities of public interest; one may pass fair discuss the working of Indian democracy without concern of retaliation, everybody is an arbiter of justice in their own conscience, authoritarian governments, oppressive institutions, and corrupt corporations should be subject to the pressure, not merely of international diplomacy but of something far greater and stronger that’s consciences of individuals within them.

Every citizen of India should be complete information on affairs of representatives through channels of property rights. it’s true that a free and independent press may be an eminent part of a vibrant democratic society. during a recent event, the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court called a conference putting allegations on jurist of India Justice Dipak Misra accusing him of assigning with far-reaching consequences to selective benches without rational basis (2018). within the case of R.V. Jayarajan Supreme Court held that the press occupies an unenviable position because the media are the eyes and ears of the general public.

Freedom of the press is thus a derivative of the Fundamental Right of freedom of speech and expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution. Thus all restrictions imposed on citizens also are imposed on media.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has right to freedom of opinion and interference and imparts information and ideas through any media irrespective of the frontier”. In the exact same context, the phrase freedom of the press has not been expressly used under Article-19, but freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of the press.”

In Indian Express Newspapers vs. Union of India, AIR 1995 SC 965, the expression of freedom of the press has not been issued under Article 19 but is comprehended within Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The expression means freedom from the authority that might have the interference with the content and therefore the circulation of the newspapers and can’t be any interference thereupon freedom within the name of public interest.

LIMITATIONS ON FREEDOM OF PRESS-

A free and independent press doesn’t connote a license with no restriction. The media while disseminating information to the general public should make sure that such information is accurate. Limitations are imposed under Article 19(2) of the constitution of India impliedly. They are-

• Right to reputation

• Right to privacy

• Law of contempt of court.

Thus, if the press criticizing another indulges in libel/slander, he is liable under civil law. Also, journalistic adventures conducted to derail the continuing trial in courts by indulging in parallel trials are in charge of contempt of court.

IS MEDIA TRIAL CONTEMPT OF COURT?

The contempt of courts act,1971, defines contempt by identifying it as civil and criminal. contempt of court is further divided into-

• Scandalizing

• Prejudicing trial

• Hindering administration of Justice

 Interference with the judicial process owes its origin to principles of natural justice, “every accused has a right to a fair trial” clubbed with “justice may not only be done, but it must also seem to be done”. Many attempts are made to prejudice trials and if this is allowed it would lead to the conviction of people who have not even committed it. Contempt of court has been introduced to prevent such unjust and unfair trials. The publication which amounts to poisoning the minds of jurors, witnesses, and parties amounts to contempt of court. No editor has a right to assume the role of the investigator to try to prejudice the court against any person.

Supreme court has held in one famous case that when litigation is pending before a court, no one shall comment on it in such a way that there is real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial of an action, e.g. By influence on the judge, witnesses, mankind, even if the person making the comment honestly believes it to be true still it is contempt of court if he prejudices the truth before it is ascertained in the proceedings.

Thus media while conducting a trial if shows the true picture of the trial being conducted in the court then it is not contempt. It will amount to contempt only if it prejudices the very accused, witnesses.

Conclusion

The media acts as a watchdog and act as a platform to bring people’s voices to the notice of society and legislatures. From the above, it is clear that media has more negative role than the positive one. The media needs to be regulated and cannot be given a free hand in court proceedings as they are not some sporting event. Somehow, the trial by media has no doubt assumed a gigantic proportion. On one hand, we have some famous criminal cases which would have gone unpunished but due to media intervention justice was done. On the other hand, there have been instances where media has been commercialized to such an extent that it promoted grave injustice by favoring wrongdoers and bringing them into the limelight by only highlighting their good deeds.

REFERENCES

  1. https://sociallawstoday.com/media-trial-and-its-impact-on-indian-judiciary
  2. https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/right/freedom-expression
  3. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/Readers-Editor/Freedom-of-the-press-and-fair-trial/article16301300.ece
  4. https://www.academia.edu/38521582/media_trial_docx

Aishwarya Says:

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