MEDIA TRIAL IN INDIA: THE REAL JUDICIARY?

By- Jaivardhan Sahay

“There is a court greater than the court of humans that is court of conscience. But today there is a court greater than court of humans which is the court of Newsroom.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

Media is considered as one of the pillars of the democracy, it plays a vital role in informing the people of the nation about the day to day stir in the country. Media is capable of changing and representing the mentality of an individual through its viewpoint.

It is thus needless to put emphasis on the fact that a free and a healthy press are very much needed in the functioning of democracy. In a democratic set up there has to be an active participation of people in all affairs of their community and the state.

The Right of Freedom of Speech and Expression is contained in Article 19[1] of the constitution, however the freedom is not rigid as it is backed up by the sub clause of the same article stating that the right of freedom of speech and expression does not allow the freedom to commit contempt of court, as there is saying with “great power comes greater responsibility” so one should be responsible and accountable.

Media trial simply means any sort of controversy/ crime or any other incident that is going on in the nation that comes to media and media gives its interpretation. In doing so, it rather gives out their judgement!!

Trial can be of two types: Fair Trial in which the facts of the cases are only presented by the media in the public domain. The other one which is going on currently in our country, “media trial”, in which media has its own ‘so called’ team which does the investigation and gives its judgement even before the courts judgement and declares the accused who is targeted guilty.

They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent and that is “POWER” to control the minds of masses. There are several cases in which Court’s decision and Media Trial’s decision were different.

One of such cases is Aarushi Talwar double murder case. Before the court’s decision many big media houses gave their own decision and created their own facts and figures for their personal benefits.

Other propaganda was of targeting the foreigners and Muslims who were in New Delhi for Tablighi Jamaat[2] and were criticized by media for their congregation as a part of persecution and propaganda, in this matter the Bombay High Court clearly said that a particular community was targeted and was made scapegoat as a part of their propaganda.

The same agenda is being followed by several media houses in the currently going on case of Sushant Singh Rajput before the Court’s decision and CBI’s reports. Media houses have targeted Rhea Chakhraborty[3] and held her liable and guilty for the death of the late actor.

These media trials are not only limited to televisions in these recent times. There are major media trials being carried on social networking sites. We saw that the #Metoo movement was misused by many. This movement was started mainly for the women who were assaulted and were allegedly harassed but many people misused this movement and took this as an opportunity to defame someone for their propaganda[4].

These days it has been observed that social media platforms are misused for targeting someone or maybe harassing someone without knowing the real truth. These media trials not only affect the career but also the mental health of the accused as well as the spectators.

The victim or the accused are even given death threats and many a times they are attacked by public. It is true that many a times the accused that is under media trial comes out as the real victim but majority of the time the innocent is victimized.

In order to conduct investigation, the media houses infringe the privacy of the people involved in the case or their friends and family. This is a clear violation of privacy of an individual which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the India Constitution.

It is absolutely astonishing to see how low the Indian media houses have stooped down in order to hold debates on their channels. The media channels work according to the needs and demand of the public and it has become a clear business. All of this is done either for TRP or for the pressure they have from political parties.

Is media trial contempt of court?

Yes, it is clearly a contempt of court; the right to the decision of any matter should be uninfluenced and should not be influenced by news channel headlines. There should be a law passed by the Supreme Court or the Parliament.

What should be done?

The Supreme Court of India should make laws and regulations keeping the government in loop as regards the media houses. Nowadays media has more of a negative impact than a positive one.

There are some points on which more emphasis should be put as media has a habit of harassing the accused by making phone calls 100 times a day and asking them questions even if the person doesn’t want to answer it and then following the cars of the accused and lynching upon them when they are coming outside, chasing them everywhere be it home, office, road, traffic signals or anywhere.

The accused of any matter is not accountable to media. The media cannot force anyone to answer their questions as the court and the investigation team is there for it. These kinds of harassment and lynching should not be accepted especially in pandemic where human contact may lead to death.

The media houses shouldn’t be allowed to give the verdict; they can give their opinion but not the judgement. The Press council of India should be more active and strict and should make more strict rules and make sure that they are being followed.

The Media Houses and the social networking sites in India are also considered these days as the producer of fake news. Hence, strict rules and regulations should be made.


[1] The Constitution of India, 1950

[2] Respondent, Bombay HC quashes FIRs against 29 foreigners in Tablighi case, India legal live ( Aug.22, 2020 05:44 PM) https://www.indialegallive.com/top-news-of-the-day/news/bombay-hc-quashes-firs-against-29-foreigners-in-tablighi-case

[3]News Respondent, SSR Case: Siddharth Pithani confesses 8 hard drives destroyed the day Rhea Chakraborty left the house, PopTimes UK (Aug. 27,2020) https://poptimesuk.com/ssr-case-siddharth-pithani-confesses-8-hard-drives-destroyed-day-rhea-chakraborty-left-the-house/151033/

[4]Swati Deshpande, Don’t misuse #MeToo movement, The times of India (Oct 21 2018, 03:02PM)
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/66289157.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst


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