Bombay HC surprised there is no state control over electronic media

The court is hearing two pleas seeking restraint on the media trial in late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death

September 10, 2020 07:37 pm | Updated 07:38 pm IST - Mumbai

A view of the Bombay High Court.

A view of the Bombay High Court.

The Bombay High Court on Thursday observed, “We are surprised to find there is no state control over electronic media”, while hearing pleas seeking restraint on the “media trial” in late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.

Also read: Media reports on Sushant Singh Rajput case speculative: CBI

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G. S. Kulkarni was hearing two public interest litigations (PIL). One of them has been filed by six former Director Generals of Police, a former Additional Director General of Police, and a former Commissioner of Police, pertains to the “unfair, malicious and false media campaign against Mumbai Police” in the death of actor Sushant. They are represented by senior advocate Milind Sathe.

The other PIL has been filed by filmmaker Nilesh Navlakha; the editor of a regional newspaper Mahibub D. Shaikh; and retired civil servant Subhash Chander, seeking direction to ensure news channels do not undertake a media trial that can prejudice the independent investigation being undertaken by Central Bureau of Investigation in the case.

Mr. Sathe told the court that after the order passed by the court directing the media to exercise restraint while reporting on the matter, there had been more vociferous coverage against the Mumbai Police.

Also read: Bombay High Court asks media to show restraint in reporting of Sushant case

The court directed all parties to file their affidavits, and that the Enforcement Directorate, Narcotics Control Bureau, India TV, News Nation and ABP News be added as respondents in the matter, and adjourned it for October 8.

Affidavit by Republic TV

Republic TV’s chief financial Officer Sivasubramanian Sundaram filed an affidavit in the Nilesh Navlakha PIL stating the petition had been filed with the ulterior motive to curtail the freedom of press under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution (all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression).

The 80-page affidavit said, “The fight for justice for Sushant cannot be squandered, halted or blocked by vested interests at this stage, especially when the legitimate investigative journalism conducted by the channel and other media houses have brought in various unexplored angles and exposed inconsistencies pertaining to his death.”

Also read: Sushant case: former CP, DGPs move HC against media trial of police

It mentioned: “The Jessica Lal murder case, Nitish Katara murder case and Rocky Yadav’s case among others are prime examples of when the media came together with the people of India in its fight for the prevailing of justice.”

Prem Chand, Under Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, has stated in an affidavit, “As per existing framework, programmes telecast on private satellite TV channels are regulated in terms of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act and Cable Television Networks Rules. All television channels are required to adhere to the programme codes prescribed under them. The News Broadcasting Standard Authority is set up to consider complaints against or in respect of broadcasters with respect to the content of any news. Some complaints have also been forwarded to the News Broadcasters Association. The Ministry also has an institutional mechanism to deal with violation of Programme Codes.”

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