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Don’t cross the “Lakshman Rekha” or else face Contempt of Courtroom Bombay HC on Media Trial : [Read Guidelines]

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In Criminal cases, Media Trial tends to distort the administration of Justice. Therefore, it could amount to ‘Contempt of Court’.

we hold that any act done or publication made which is presumed by the appropriate court (having power to punish for contempt) to cause prejudice to mankind and affect a fair investigation of crime as well as a fair trial of the accused

What could lead to the obstruction to the “Administration of Justice”?

Media reports before the initiation of the trial could lead to an obstruction to the Administration of Justice.

Media trial during the continuance of Police investigation could lead to an obstruction to the Administration of Justice.

Administration of Justice is applicable to both the civil and criminal cases.

Defence of Fair reporting?

The court rejected this defence and held that this defence could not be availed for reportage of any on going investigation.

The court clarified that Judicial Proceeding initiates soon after the filing of FIR. Hence ‘Contempt of Court’ will have its ambiance on the overall proceeding.

Media should observe restraint in discussions about on going investigation so as not to prejudice the rights of the accused and witness

Guidelines

The bench reiterated that the guidelines of the Press Council of India will be applicable in the Electronic media as well.

Following were some of the guidelines Court issued:

Holding interviews with the victim, the witnesses, and/or any of their family members and displaying it on screen

Analyzing versions of witnesses, whose evidence could be vital at the stage of trial;

Publishing a confession allegedly made to a police officer by an accused and trying to make the public believe that the same is a piece of evidence which is admissible before a Court and there is no reason for the Court not to act upon it, without letting the public know the nitty-gritty of the Evidence Act, 1872;

Printing photographs of an accused and thereby facilitating his identification;

Criticizing the investigative agency based on half-baked information without proper research;

Pronouncing on the merits of the case, including pre-judging the guilt or innocence qua an accused or an individual not yet wanted in a case, as the case may be;

Recreating/reconstructing a crime scene and depicting how the accused committed the crime;

Predicting the proposed/future course of action including steps that ought to be taken in a particular direction to complete the investigation; and

Leaking sensitive and confidential information from materials collected by the investigating agency;

Acting in any manner so as to violate the provisions of the Programme Code as prescribed under section 5 of the CTVN Act read with rule 6 of the CTVN Rules and hereby inviting contempt of court;

Indulging in character assassination of any individual and thereby mar his reputation.

The court clarified that the above-mentioned guidelines are not exhaustive but only indicative.

Court’s verdict

Court asked the media houses to not cross certain boundaries (Lakshman Rekha)

Think of a police officer. Can anyone be guaranteed that he will not be influenced? He may be following a particular track, which could be the right track. Media says no no this must be the track. He loses track and rounds up the innocent.

It is pertinent to note that, one of the PILs was filed by the group of eight ex-police officers of the Mumbai Police.

The group cited that the Criticism that was made against the city police was unfair.

Court held that the media reportage by the Times Now and Republic TV in the present case is prima facie contemptous.

Read the Guidelines here

Bombay-High-Court-guidelines-on-media-trial

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