Recently, a bench headed by the Chief Justice of the Mumbai High Court expressed displeasure with a section of the electronic media, asking what is the need of the courts when you become the investigator, prosecutor and judge? Actually, the court was hearing a public interest case, in which the media trial has been sought to be stopped on the subjects related to the Sushant Singh case.
When it was said on behalf of electronic media that freedom of expression was said to have helped in solving the case, the court advised them to read the law and to conduct it accordingly. The Sushant-Riya episode and now the controversy over the TRP i.e. television rating point forced the court to make strict comments. It started with factual reporting of criminal incidents, but TRP's greed has turned it into sensational reporting. The situation is such that there is a competition to get ahead of each other, no one is being averse to adopt a juggle.
Due to TV channels, people are being criminalized in the eyes of society even before the decision of the court. This is the culmination of injustice. All this is being done purely to increase trade, but the unfortunate aspect of it is that freedom of expression is being invoked for this. Media trial comes under the purview of contempt of court. Through this, an environment is created in favor of or against someone, which is an interference in the functioning of the court. It is an offense punishable under Section 3 of Section 2 (c) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, but no concrete initiative has been taken on it. In fact, the administration of independent justice is as important as the independent press. Both are necessary for society, but the media cannot be allowed to interfere in the judicial system.
Every accused has the right to a free and fair trial of his case. It is also the right of the accused that until the decision of his trial is reached, the public and the court will have the right against him. Prejudice should not be created, but due to media trials, it is being reversed exactly. The interrelationships between media trial and freedom of expression were clarified in the 1981 Schering Chemicals v Falkman trial in the UK.
Lord Denning had said that freedom of expression is the cornerstone of freedom, but there should be no misunderstanding that it has the freedom to destroy someone's reputation, break trust or corrupt the stream of justice. A petition was filed in the Andhra Pradesh High Court to curb the media trial. Then the court said that whenever the trial of an important person starts, the interference of some media people increases to a great extent.
This has a profound impact on the courts and prosecutors. His objectivity is deeply hurt. There is a need to curb this immediately. A similar concern was also expressed by the Supreme Court in a 2005 lawsuit titled MP Lohia v. West Bengal. The Supreme Court had strongly reprimanded and cautioned the people concerned, considering it an interference in the judicial process. Despite such countless rebuke of the court and Media lured by TRPs through TV channels. The trend of the trial is increasing rather than decreasing. Other democratic countries like Australia, USA, UK and Canada have laws to regulate situations like media trials, but we have not been successful in this yet. From 1994 to 2006, at least seven attempts were made to enact laws for the regulation of electronic media, not only to prevent media trials and contempt of court but also to protect the unity, integrity, security, law and order of the nation.
There was also a system of regulating the broadcasts that provoked, but by depicting it as an attack on freedom of expression, such an environment was created that the government pulled back. It was argued that electronic media does not require any external regulation. He is capable of self-regulation and should be trusted. In view of the developments of the last few months, a PIL has been filed again in the Supreme Court. In this, the court has been demanded that it should issue guidelines to the central government to set up an institution for the regulation of electronic means. Against this, the argument of self-regulation is being argued once again. The insistence on the right to self-regulation is against the basic principles of democracy.
Demand for self-regulation is equivalent to seeking freedom. Democracy does not allow anyone to become so empowered that they can misuse it. Democracy is based on the principle of control and cohesion, so arrangements have been made to keep the President and the Judge within the purview of the Constitution and the rules. Action can also be taken against them for acting against the constitution. Uncontrolled empowerment sets the background for autocracy. For the credit of society and the electronic media itself, it is necessary that a law should be introduced, which will curb the trends like media trials in the greed of TRPs. (The author is an expert on legal matters and a member of the Uttar Pradesh Higher Education Service Commission)