Bombay High Court on November 6, 2020 concluded the arguments on a bunch of Public Interest Litigations which sought guidelines on reporting on the investigation and media trial in the SSR case.
The two judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice G S Kulkarni reserved the Judgement on 5 Public Interest Litigations together- one is filed by a group of retired police officer of Maharashtra Police (Mahesh Narayan Singh & others v. Union of India), second is filed by the filmmaker Nilesh Navalkar and others, third by a party in person named Asim Suhas Sarode, fourth by an NGO in the name of 'In Pursuit Of Justice' and fifth by Prerna VirendraKumar Arora. During the previous hearing, the bench had also made a strong moral remark which criticized the pattern of reporting which is followed by some media houses in Shushant Singh Rajput case. The bench also indicated that it was contemplating the framing of guidelines for regulating the same.
Advocate SP Chinoy refered to the Delhi High Court judgement in Naveen Jindal v. Zee Media (2017 SCC Online Del 8209)
whereby Zee News was restrained from publishing certain allegations against the plaintiff while investigation was pending. The reference was made because of this argument that the Court has inherent power to restrain the publication which affects the right of a fair trial of an accused person. The criminal justice systems always give the accused person right to fair trial and in criminal justice system an accused person is 'innocent unless proven guilty'. The Advocate Chinoy quoted from a Delhi High Court Judgement stating, "Any publication which gives excessive adverse publicity to an accused or which is likely to hamper fair trial and constitutes an interference with the course of justice could be a ground for grant of injunction. The Court has ample inherent power to restrain Publication in media if he said Publication may result in inferences with the administration of justice or would be against the principle of fair trial or open justice".
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh made submission on the point that “Whether in prejudicial media reporting at the stage of investigation can amount to contempt of court as interference with the administration of Justice or not?”
With respect to this, he referred to a Supreme Court judgement in A K Gopalan v. Noordeen 1970 SCR (2) 410
and said that Supreme Court also relied upon this judgement while deciding the Sahara case. However, the bench also expressed doubt about the relevance of AK Gopalan case as it was passed before the enactment of contempt of court Act 1971. The Chief justice also referred to the supreme Court judgement in M P Lohia v. State of West Bengal (2005) 2 ALT (CRI) 64
where the court depreciated a publisher for a definite re article written against the accused is relevant in that case. Supreme Court has said that "..we have no hesitation that this type of articles appearing in the media would certainly interfere with the administration of justice. We depreciate this practice and caution the publisher editor and the journalist".
Senior Advocate said thatthe A K Gopalan case is relevant even after the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 as it deals with the inherent power of the contempt of court under Article 129 and Article 215 of Constitution of India, 1950. Article 129 Constitution of India , 1950 enumerates that Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.