In this modern world, media plays an important role to change the whole point of view towards a matter. Various steps need to be taken to deal with media trials from gradually destroying the civil rights of citizens and the courts need to punish them if the media violets their duties.
There is no authority given to the media to try a case by our legal system. By media trials on television and newspaper, a huge opinion on a person’s reputation is created irrespective of any final judgement given by the court. So, there is an urgent need of ‘responsible journalism’ in our country. Article 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution provides us right to a fair trial and investigation.
HISTORY OF MEDIA TRIALS:
One of the first celebrities who underwent trial through media was Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle. He was found not guilty by the court but he lost his career and a great deal of loss to his reputation due to media coverage because he was declared guilty by the media in 1921.Another well known case in media trial was the trail of O.J. Simpson where the viewers were deeply influenced by media coverage even above the status of the court. This was not about declaring guilty or innocent, but it is about the promotion of the case by the media in the public which had a vast impact on the views of the viewers. These media coverages display a pre-decided image of an accused which destroys the accused reputation and, also affects the judgement.
IMPACT OF MEDIA TRIALS:
1.Media trials and freedom of speech
Freedom of speech plays an important role in our society. But sometimes wrong use of this power creates disturbances politically, socially and, also economically. In Printers (Mysore)Ltd v. CTO, the Supreme Court held that Freedom of Press is not included in fundamental rights, it is a part of freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of press is a cherished right in all democratic countries, and it is regarded as the 4thpillar of democracy.
However, Supreme Court stated in some cases that the trail conducted by the press, social media or any other way could be mentioned as anti-thesis of general rule of law which mislead the jurisdiction system.
2. Media trial v. Fair trial
Media trial has created a hinderance to fail trail because of the conflict arising due to free press and free trial. There is a right to fair trial where the trial should nit be influenced by the external opinions of public and Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 and Article 129 and 215 of Indian Constitution safeguarding this right. Medial trials create an opinion in the viewer’s mind due to which they give the judgement on their own irrespective of the court’s final decision.
In the famous Arushi Talwal’s murder case, 2013 the media had already declared her parents guilty even before the beginning of actual trial. But an immunity has given to the press, even though they had gone out of control in this case.
In Zahira Habibullah Sheikh v. State of Gujarat, the Supreme Court held that a fair trial means a trial before impartial judge, a fair prosecutor and a calm judicial atmosphere.Fair trial means there should be no biased or prejudice for or against the accused, the witnesses, or the motive which is being tried.
Every citizen within the territory of India has an absolute right to a fair trial under Articles 14 and 20, 21 and 22 of Indian Constitution.
WHETHER MEDIA TRIAL IS A CONTEMPT OF COURT OR NOT?
Yes, the media trial falls under the boundary of the contempt of court. Thus, punishment for this should be laid down by the law.The right to a fair trial must not be influenced by media coverage or newspaper publication.
In re P.C. Sen case, Justice Shah stated that any law having relation with the contempt of the court is well settled. Any act which is done, or writing published to bring any judge or the court to the boundary of contempt, or to lowers his authority, or to influence the legal procedure of the court will be termed as contempt of court.
There should be reasonable restrictions imposed upon the media which should limit the power media. Those restrictions should not go beyond the ambit of reasonable restrictions as per mentioned under Article 19(2) of Indian Constitution.
In D.C. Saxena (Dr.) v. Chief Justice of India, the Supreme Court has held that no body can accused a Judge of misbehaviour, partiality or incapacity. The motive to give such protection to the judges, so that they could give judgement without any fear or favour to maintain an independent judiciary system, as the courts are created constitutionally for delivering the justice.
The best way for proper functioning of the press is to punish them, if they violate the basic code of contempt of the court.
It’s crystal clear that, media has more negative impact on the judiciary system rather than the positive impact. It is not good for a democratic country, if its media is controlled by the government. In the cases where celebrities are involved, the opinion of the fans are drastically influenced by the media. In the recent case of Rhea Chakraborty v. State of Bihar, which is also known as SSR murder case media had played a crucial role and the accused raised the issue of media trials.The media cannot have a free hand in legal proceedings of court and there is a high need of imposing restrictions upon the media for am impartial and smooth functioning of a trial.
(1994) 2 SCC 434
(2005) 2 SCC (Jour) 75
AIR 1970 SC 1821
(1996) 5 SCC 216
2020 SCC OnLine SC 654
Author: Jagakalia Agasti
SOA, National Institute of law, Bhubaneswar
Disclaimer: The author bears sole responsibility for the accuracy of facts, opinions or view stated in the present blog.