While hearing a plea seeking guidelines for media coverage in the actor Sushant Singh Rajput death case, the Bombay High Court on Thursday observed, “is it the duty of the media to suggest anything to the investigating agencies?”
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and justice GS Kulkarni heard public interest litigation (PIL) pleas seeking a direction to the authorities to issue guidelines to be followed by all media houses – print, television, radio and Internet to refrain from publishing and curtailing any comments which may jeopardise the reputation of the police that may hinder the cause of administration of justice.
A plea sought a direction to news channels to ensure that no media trial takes place, which has the impact of prejudicing the independent investigation being undertaken by the CBI in the case.
Senior advocate Aspi Chinoy, for former directors general of police and former commissioner of police, in another plea, spoke about media trials. He said media should not report on the criminal investigations in a case. Media had been commenting on witnesses and the prosecution. They were running hashtags and a campaign that involved prejudging a case.
Naming anchors of Times Now Navika Kumar and Rahul Shivshankar, Mr. Chinoy said they were crossing the line in reporting the Sushant matter and running hashtags that involved prejudging like #ArrestRhea.
He referred to the guidelines issued by the Press Council of India (PCI): “Norms of Journalistic Conduct”, which contained provisions related to investigative journalism.
He said, “There is a dearth of statutory provision to regulate the media. It is not enough to say that courts have repeatedly warned against media trials. We need specific guidelines for the electronic media. When you make guidelines for the PCI, why not make similar guidelines for broadcasting media on prejudgments, etc. This matter should concern the court.”
The court said, “Somebody should be held guilty. Somebody should be arrested. Is it the duty of the media to suggest anything to the investigating agencies?”
It adjourned the matter for October 12.