Bombay High Court Slammed Republic TV and Times Now for running a “contemptuous“ campaign in the reporting of the death of Bollywood superstar Sushant Singh Rajput. The Court observed that the two news channels were in disregard of the law on which the Constitution of India rests.
The Bombay High Court remained severally critical of the way in which the investigation around the death of Sushant Singh Rajput was reported. The High Court said that the two news channels “started a vicious campaign of masquerading as crusaders of truth and justice in an attempt to outsmart each other”.
The Court stated that “Reports/ discussions/ debates/interviews on the death of the actor flowed thick and fast from these TV channels in brazen disregard of the rule of law, the edifice on which the country’s Constitution rests. These TV channels took upon themselves the role of the investigator, the prosecutor as well as the Judge and delivered the verdict as if, during the pandemic, except they all organs of the State were in slumber.”
The Court also added that in the process, the two news channels cared less for the rights of stakeholders. Republic TV and Times Now also “threw the commands of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and all sense of propriety to the wind,” according to the Court.
Republic TV and Times Now were also urged by the Court to resist the temptation to sensationalize while covering news.
The Bombay High Court in its judgement said, “Every journalist/ reporter has an overriding duty to the society of educating the masses with fair, accurate, trustworthy and responsible reports relating to reportable events and above all to the standards of his/her profession. Thus, the temptation to sensationalize should be resisted.”
Although the Court considered the reporting by Republic TV and Times Now contemptuous, it refrained from taking an action for criminal contempt against the respective channels. The Court abstained from issuing a contempt notice to the channels because of the nature of proceedings made them consider the greater public interest.
In its judgement the Court also said that the reporting by the media was “prejudicial to the interest of the accused” which can jeopardize the entire process of a fair trial.
The bench in its judgement stated, “Even if the contents of the reports/discussions/debates are considered to be mere insinuations and aspersions against Mumbai Police and the actress, they lack bona fides, are aimed at interfering with and/or obstructing the administration of justice and have the propensity to shake the public confidence in the capability of the police machinery and the efficacy of the judiciary.”
The Court also took a concerned stance for the tribulations Rhea faced due to the sensationalized reporting of the news channels.
“The actress, although entitled to her rights to life and equal protection of the laws, protected by Articles 21 and 14 of the Constitution, and the right guaranteed by Article 20(3) thereof to maintain silence, was painted as the villain of the piece, had the rug below the presumption of innocence removed, and received the media’s verdict that she is guilty of orchestrating the actor’s murder, much before filing of a police report under section 173(2), CrPC,” Bombay High Court opined.
The Court also remained critical towards the Times Now for going to the extent of raising PILs against media trials before the Court could attempt to stall the investigation that was carried by CBI.
The judgement said, “These TV channels took upon themselves the role of the investigator, the prosecutor as well as the Judge and delivered the verdict as if, during the pandemic, except they all organs of the State were in slumber”
The Court condemned Republic TV for propagating the idea that Sushant Singh Rajput may have been murdered by Rhea Chakraborty. Additionally, the Court also was apprised that Republic TV planted doubt in their viewer’s minds doubt whether Mumbai Police can efficiently carry out the investigation.
The Court abstained from issuing a notice against the poor reporting standards kept by the news channels. However, in its judgement it hoped that the news channels would act responsibly in the future and not force the Court to issue notice and take actions in future.