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Supreme Court Directs MHA to Develop Guidelines for Media Briefings Aimed to Curb Media Trials in Criminal Investigations

By LAWSTREET NEWS NETWORK      13 September, 2023 07:35 PM      0 Comments
Supreme Court Directs MHA to Develop Guidelines for Media Briefings Aimed to Curb Media Trials in Criminal Investigations

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said media trial affects the administration of justice and rights and interest of the victims as well as the accused in pending criminal investigations. 

The court directed the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to prepare in three months a comprehensive manual regarding the nature of disclosure in press briefings.

It also directed all the director general of police (DGPs) to communicate to the Ministry of Home Affairs their suggestions on guidelines.

A bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justices P S Narasimha and Manoj Misra said, "It is in the interest of the victims, accused and the public at large that the media trials do not happen".

The court underlined the need for sensitisation of police officials as to at what stage details of the probe can be revealed.

"The guidelines by Union government were prepared almost a decade ago on April 1, 2010. Since then, with the upsurge of reporting of crime not only in print media but also electronic media, it becomes important for there to be a balance," the court said.

The bench said the disclosure made by the police during media briefings should be objective and not of subjective in nature having a bearing on the guilt of the accused.

It highlighted that disclosure by the police should not result in media trial or allow pre-determination of the guilt of the accused.

Media trial is an important issue as it involves victims’ interest, and the evidence collected in the matter, the bench said.

The court also said there is a presumption of innocence in favour of accused unless he is proved guilty, and the media report should not impinge upon reputation of accused. 

The bench said biased reporting also gives rise to public suspicion and in some cases, the victim may be a minor, therefore it is important that the privacy of the victim should not be affected as the fundamental rights under Article 19 and 21 of accused and victims should not be impacted.

The court also said the issue involved an important aspect, which is the propriety and procedure to be followed by police personnel for media briefings.

The bench also said that media reporting on matters related to commission of crimes involved several aspects of public interest.

At the basic level the fundamental right to free speech and expression is directly involved, both in terms of the right of media to portray and disseminate views and news, it said.

The bench said the modalities have to be followed by police in conducting media briefings where a criminal investigation for an alleged offence is in progress.

NGO, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and others sought guidelines for media coverage of criminal cases. Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan acted as amicus curiae. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was impleaded to provide assistance.



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