Daijiworld Media Network - Mumbai
Mumbai, Jan 18: The news coverage by Republic TV and Times Now on the Sushant Singh Rajput death case has been termed as 'prima facie contemptuous' by the Bombay High Court. The latter has also asked electronic media to follow the guidelines issued by the Press Council of India (PCI) in case of suicide cases until some new guidelines are framed.
The Bombay High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni was hearing a plea over the regulation of media trials being held in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.
“We have issued guidelines for the print and electronic media regarding the reporting of cases of death and suicide. We have made the Press Council of India guidelines applicable to the electronic media as well,” the Bombay High Court said.
The Court also noted that Republic TV and Times Now reportage against Mumbai police in the SSR matter are 'prima facie contemptuous.' However, the Court has deferred from taking action against the two channels.
“Reconstructing or recreating the crime scene or leaking any sensitive information should be refrained,” the HC observed.
“We observe that the media should observe restraint in discussions about the ongoing investigation so as to prejudice the rights of the accused and witness. Publishing a confession alleged to have been made by an accused as if it is a piece of admissible evidence without letting the public know about its inadmissibility should be avoided," the Bombay High Court added.
“While reporting suicide, to suggest that the person was of weak character, should be avoided,” the Bombay High Court said.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar also pointed out that a public information officer should be appointed by the police to give authentic information about the investigation, which also received a nod by the high court. “While emphasising the need for a complete investigation, the investigation agencies are under no obligation to disclose information,” the HC said.
Last year November 6 the bench had reserved its verdict on a bunch of PILs seeking that the press, particularly TV news channels, be restrained in their reportage on the death Rajput.
The PILs, filed through senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, by activists, private citizens, and a group of retired police officers, had also sought that TV news channels be stopped from conducting a media trial into the case.
During the arguments, the Union government's counsel, additional solicitor general Anil Singh, had said there already existed adequate statutory as well as a self-regulatory mechanism for the media, including TV news channels, to follow while printing or broadcasting any news item.
Private TV news channels that are party to the case had also argued that the self-regulatory mechanism was adequate and no new statutory mechanism or guidelines were required to control the media.