You’re Not Judges or Prosecutors: HC Raps News Portals on SSR Case

The Quint
·5-min read

“Do you have any respect for the dead?” the Bombay High Court on Wednesday, 21 October, asked Republic TV, with regard to its coverage of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s demise, according to LiveLaw. The court also reportedly said, “It is so unfortunate.”

The HC bench, comprising of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni, continued to hear PILs filed against “Media Trials” amid the coverage of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case. The pleas reportedly seek regulations in the media coverage of the case.

The court also heard the lawyers of Times Now, Zee News, AAJ Tak, India TV and ABP News. Further, it reminded news channels that they were not judges or prosecutors, and if they wanted to unearth the truth, they ought to look at the Criminal Procedure Code.

The hearing will continue on Friday, 23 October, at 12 noon.

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Republic TV

WHAT DID REPUBLIC TV’S LAWYER SAY?

According to Live Law, advocate Malvika Trivedi, appearing for Republic TV, alleged that something was amiss in the Mumbai Police probe of the actor’s death, which is also why, she claimed, the apex court had asked CBI to investigate the incident.

She also stated that the channel was merely highlighting the facts that were not otherwise brought on record. The channel further reportedly claimed that it was Republic TV’s investigative journalism that shed light on the real facts in Sheena Bora murder case and Sunanda Pushkar case.

The channel further reportedly argued that in Sushant’s case it was media efforts that led to the investigations

"“Did not draw any conclusions. Only trying to beseech my lords to understand why this case was not so straightforward and only because of efforts of media it led to investigations.”" - Republic TV’s lawyer

Advocate Trivedi also said that redressal mechanisms are available, and that as neither of the personally aggrieved parties were present, the issues could not be adjudicated in PILs, reported LiveLaw.

WHAT DID THE COURT SAY?

Expressing it’s disapproval for Republic TV’s reportage of Sushant Singh Rajput’s demise, the court said:

"“There are certain Suicide Reporting guidelines. There should be no sensational headlines. Don’t you have respect for the dead? It is so unfortunate.”   "

The bench, according to LiveLaw, referred to Republic TV’s #ArrestRhea campaign, and asked: “Is this part of investigative journalism?”

"“When a case is under investigation and the issue is whether it’s a homicide or a suicide and a channel is saying it is murder, is that investigative journalism?”   " - Bombay High Court

The court further, according to LiveLaw, told Republic TV to look at the Criminal Procedure Code if they are so interested in unearthing the truth.

"“You posted story only basis post mortem? If you are so interested in unearthing the truth, you should have looked at the CrPC! Ignorance of law is no excuse. You become the investigators and prosecutors, judges. What is use of us then? Why are we here?”   "

The court also said with respect to press freedom: “We are not for a moment suggesting that the media's throat should be throttled. We are only on the short point as to whether the Programme Code is violated or not and whether your reporting contravenes any of the laid down norms or not.”

Mumbai High Court asked Republic TV to do what it wants to within boundaries, and not cross them.

Also Read: A ‘Myth’ Called Arnab Goswami: How Rules Of Journalism Were Broken

Times Now

WHAT DID TIMES NOW’S LAWYER SAY?

Advocate Kunal Tandon, appearing for Times Now, reportedly said:

"“To understand the news, the whole news must be seen, not piecemeal.”   "

The lawyer pointed out that “self-regulation” has been accepted in the statute that governs cable television.

Among other things, Tandon argued with regard to defamation, that “people in public life have to be thick skinned.”

WHAT DID THE COURT SAY?

According to Bar and Bench, the court asked Advocate Kunal Tandon appearing for Times Now: “If matter is under investigation, how far is it acceptable for media to report?”

The bench further, according to Bar and Bench, said “do not wear the hat of the adjudicator.”

Zee News

WHAT DID ZEE NEWS’ LAWYER SAY?

“I as a news channel have been complying. We have made mistakes, we may be corrected. A mistake or two cannot lead to a situation where the entire law will be affected,” said advocate Ankit Lohia, appearing for Zee News.

Further arguing that there is no need for a separate legislation to keep the media in check, Lohia reportedly said:

"“If we cross the Lakshman rekha, the courts will keep a check on us. If we are brought in complete control, then there will be control by a pillar which we may be criticising.” "

The lawyer also said if a victim’s rights have been affected by the actions of the media, they are free to approach the court.

WHAT DID THE COURT SAY?

Responding to Zee News’ arguments, the court reportedly asked how will a person living in a remote area get justice after damage has been done to him by activities of a news channel.

"“These are all aspects after the damage has been done. But how will the person get justice after damage has been done? How does a person in a village or remote place get justice?”   " - Bombay High Court, according to Bar and Bench.

(With inputs from LiveLaw, Bar and Bench).

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