The Supreme Court on Thursday said security agencies should stop parading accused before the media as it is an affront to the person and dignity of the accused who was presumed innocent until convicted of the crime.
A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha said agencies should also stop giving media briefings immediately after the arrest of a suspect, as what is said by investigating officers in press conferences prejudices the person even before he is charged of the crime.
“Media briefings by investigating officer during on-going investigations should not happen. It is a very serious matter. This issue touches upon Article 21 [right to life and liberty including fair trial],” the Chief Justice said.
The Bench made its view clear while hearing a petition filed by NGO People’s Union for Civil Liberties seeking direction to frame guidelines for reporting of the criminal cases and encounter killings by the security agencies.
The court said even statements made by witnesses in a pending case affects the fundamental right of the accused and works to create a stigma against him.
“Even statements made under Section 161 [before the police] and 164 [before a judicial magistrate] of the Criminal Procedure Code are released before the media. Even when the trial is on, a parallel trial is run in the media,” Justice Kurian Joseph, who is on the Bench along with Justice Rohinton Nariman, observed. The Bench appointed advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan as amicus curiae , asking him to present a detailed note on the practices followed in other countries to protect the constitutional rights of an accused.