Updated: May 17
Our nation feels the pride in being known as a democracy. here we see end number of protests , end number of conflicts and also the never-ending voices that have always stood with the nation and for the nation . the freedom of speech makes us feel heard and surely with impact . But as the largest democracy we have enshrined great responsibilities on the shoulders of the 4 pillars of democracy the executive, the legislature the judiciary followed by the media.
Though we have seen the executive and the legislature not performing their duties with due
consideration and getting involved in methods of corrupt practices, now a days we see the media too either playing as a pawn in the hands of the government or serving the common folk’s with false or misleading fats and information based on there so called media trail practice.
What is media trail?
Article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution gave birth to the freedom of press and media and hence we saw the rise of this very forth pillar which connected the masses with the rest of the three structure and served the nation.
However with the current competition in the market the media houses have blatantly started ignoring news and only concerned covering the sensational or controversial stories that lie still pending in the courts . in a media trail the media is basically allowed to get involved in any investigation of cases and show the side of the story to the public at large but in our nation this becomes nothing but a mere circus with all the media houses being the ring masters , the victim the accused and information becomes the circus props and we public are the audience being entertained here.
Now as absurd as the situation sounds the reality is further horrific and all these media personals are basically just craving for TRP and sadly not news. The very current encounter that India had with such situation was the tragic Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case. here we saw how hell bent the media houses were to prove the conspiracy , to claim it was a murder , to harass the accused and what not . we saw proper judgment pronouncements flashing the news headlines
Is media trail a contempt of court ?
Media trail has often helped in getting a lead in many cases for instance the Jessica lal murder case, but sadly enough there are times when media cross its line and can amount to contempt of court.
Even before the court starts its trail the media invests itself in the process of separate investigations including sting operations etc. and start building a public opinion that stands against the accused and this eventually effects the chance of fair trail that the accused has the right for as there is a presumption that is being presented connecting the dots together and portraying the accused as the offender . this however, leads to undue interference with the justice system and calls for proceedings against the media.
On the January 18th ,2021 the Bombay High Court said that “ Media trails during investigation interferes with administration of justice and amounts to contempt of court.” The bench clearly rejected the notion of fair reporting as presented by the defense under section 3 where clear reporting of the investigation from the stage of FIR must be reported , here the bench stated that section 3 clearly defines the meaning of “judicial proceedings .”
The Division Bench inclusive Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni came to an observation that the media trail is not only running counter to the program code under cable TV act but is also interfering with the criminal investigation lead by the police . the Bench also concluded that since the electronic media is not governed by any guidelines as of now the Press Council of India guidelines shall be applicable .
Constitutional rights of the accused and the media
Underneath the constitution it is said that there is no place for percipience and it is also said that “justice hurried is justice worried”. In such a situation there stands a chance for every person to get adequate representation for himself. a fair representation however is a façade of Article 14 which talks about right to equality. Further wee see that Article 20 suggests that no person ill be convicted for an offence that isn’t concerned with the time of commission of the offence. So an accused is provided with fair and adequate representation as par with other citizens. The them under reformative approach (Article 21).
Article 22 talk’s about that no person shall be detained in custody without actually being informed as soon as possible, nor can anyone stop him to having consult and defend himself with the help of a legal practitioner of his own choice. The exception to this right is that it cannot be enjoyed by aliens and is strictly provisional only for the Indian citizens. And these already giving rights are a constitutional inherent and cannot be altered or changed.
As per section 50 (1) of the Cr.P.C, if a person is being arrested without any warrant is entitled to know the full facts of the offence for which he is being arrested and when a person has an issued warrant on his name then he must be notified about the same , or even be shown such warrants if at all the need arises under the provision of Section 75 of the Cr. P.C.
If a person has been arrested without a warrant being issued and is accused of a bailable offence then he has all rights to be informed about the same by the police officers so that he can pay the surety amount as he his entitled to be released on bail. They also do have a right to be taken before the magistrate before 24 hours of his arrest which does not include the time taken to travel, as per Section 57 and 76 of the code
All of this is accompanied by various other provisions like right to free , fair and speedy trail, a right to consult a legal practitioner, a right to receive free legal aid . he also has the right to be examined by a doctor and more importantly he too has the right to privacy and protection against unlawful searches , this includes the fact that a person’s property cannot be searched without a proper search warrant. There are various other provisions like right to appeal, human treatment in the person etc.
Now coming to the second half of the topic related to the constitutional rights that the media enjoy, lets critically examine and also discuss the various provisions.
In the case of Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras the court observed that the freedom of speech & press lays down the foundation of a democratic organization, as without free political observations and discussions no proper functioning of the government is possible. in this particular case 5 entry and circulation of the English journal “ cross road “ printed and originally published in Bombay , was banned by the Madras government. This was considered to be a violation with respect to freedom of speech and expression as then the publication would be of little or no value.
The Supreme Court in the Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms , observed that information that is one sided , a disinformation , a misinformation or a a non-information equally create an uniformed citizenry which transforms the democracy into a farce.
In the Indian Express Newspaper v. Union of India they could held that the press plays a very significant and important role in the democratic objectives and machinery of the nation. The courts have the duty to uphold this freedom of press and overturn all kind of laws that curtail the same.
In the case of Sakal Papers v, Union India a daily newspaper order 1960, fixed the number of pages and size which a newspaper could publish at a price was considered to be a violation of the freedom of press and not a reasonable restrain under the provision of Article 19 (2)
All of the above discussed cases do provide us with the key structure and constitutional rights that the media or press enjoys under the provisions of the Indian constitution.
in conclusion I would like to say that the media has lost its priced mirror of showing the truth to the nation now all it has become is a mere puppet in the hands of the government and concealing the truth away from the common people. It’s high time this toxic media trail stops and let the judiciary do its assigned job. To conclude in the words of the great Mahatma Gandhi that “ the role of journalism should be service “. The press is undoubtedly a great power but as it has got to be the 4th pillar to democracy it becomes very imperative for the press to play momentous roles of delivering justice and also acting according to public wellbeing as being one of the largest democracy in the world our nation should always remember the words of our former Prime Minister rajiv Gandhi who one said that “ freedom of press ia an Article of Faith within us , sanctified by our constitution , validated by four decades of freedom and indispensable to our future as a Nation.”