Legality Of Media Trial In India

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Introduction:

Media of the Nation, which is regarded as the Fourth Pillar of Democracy especially in a Country like India after Legislature, Executive and Judiciary is condemned stringently these days for their publications, news stuffs and allegations for favoring any particular individual or party for creating a sensation or for achieving their own TRP and Consumer Targets.

If we analyze a bit the meaning of the word “Media Trial”, then the word “Trial” is associated with a Judicial Process of delivering justice to the aggrieved person, which involves a Court Process and a Final Order of the Court. It is pertinent to mention here that the Trial which is the last stage of adjudication in the Court after Inquiry which leads to a final verdict either in favor or against of the accused subject to Right of Appeal being provided to both the parties having pursuance to the procedure established by law. In India every citizen has a constitutional right for a free and fair trial under Article 22 and Article 20 in his case, it has nothing to do with the Media Trial, whereas the Media has duty and right only to report and form reasonable opinion on any case and not to give Judgements as it is seen in the present scenario.

Legality of Media Trial in India

The Media is protected with the legal immunity of Freedom of Speech and Expression been enshrined under PART III Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution, which for the first time was recognized in the Case of Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras, AIR 1950 by Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, which remarked that “Liberty of the Press is an essential part of right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a)

.” However, it must actively be noted by my able readers that Freedom of Speech is a Fundamental Right, and not an Absolute Right, which is subject to some reasonable restrictions like Hate Speech, Sedition and Contempt of Court widely enunciated under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

It is significantly important and must that the media of the Nation must be free to speak, raise questions and report the reality before its viewers which is perhaps the only and last custodian of law and democracy after Judiciary, but the Media is not empowered at all to declare the verdict in any case, which is legally sub-judice and is pending before any Court or Tribunal contrary to which is punishable under the statutory provisions of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The Media Houses these days in order to create a sensation and boost their TRP’s, are indulging in sensational reporting ignoring the morality,their obligations towards the society, and core or significant lacunas of democracy which is much more important to be argued upon.

Hon’ble Supreme Court of India recently in the case of M.P. Lohia v. State of West Bengal, AIR 2005 2 SCC 686 expressed a dis-pleasure towards the Editor and a Newspaper who was publishing one-sided Articles which was only touching the merits of the case, affecting the process of administration of justice resulting into projection of wrong opinion in minds of the readers and contempt of court.

It is such an irony that even after 73 years of Independence, our  Country is still not having any concrete Commission or Authority to regulate the Mis-reporting done by the News Channels and Media Houses where any individual may directly approach in an acute expectation of Justice. However, there is Press Council of India and News Broadcasting Standards Authority of India for regulating the operations and press of the Country, but obtaining relief from the aforesaid authorities for a common man is an extremely tough job. It is pertinent to mention here that Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is trying hard since last few decades to establish a Complaint and Redressal Commission, in which they still have not got any success.

The person aggrieved from the Mis-reporting or wrong reporting of the Media or Publication by any News Paper, can either approach to the Press Council of India (obviously approaching the Editor or the Broadcaster concerned before initiating legal proceedings against them with their un-satisfactory response as a substantive proof) or can file a Criminal Case at the District or Other Court against that Media House or Newspaper concerned and may claim appropriate Compensation from them, whereas Defamation is also a punishable under Section 500 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 with upto two years of simple imprisonment, fine or both, subject to certain exceptions enunciated under Section 499 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Conclusion:

Media must realize its responsibility and must focus on the important issues which safeguards the rights and integrity of democracy, whereas some statutory restrictions on the media trial are also must and is the need of the hour. It’s the integrity of media which is at stake at the moment, and the one who can turn the table is also the Media and no one else. As wonderfully said by Malcom X that “The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s their power because they control the minds of the people.” The present media needs to understand their enormously significant power and must use it in the right direction for the betterment of the Nation and a better tomorrow.

Jai Hind!

Author: Yashraj Bais, student of B.A.LL.B(5yrs) course from Private Institution in Indore (M.P.)