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Bombay High Court (Photo: Reuters)
Bombay High Court (Photo: Reuters)

Bombay HC on SSR case: Some reporting by Republic TV, Times Now contemptuous

  • It also held that trial by media interferes with police investigation. It observed that trial by media runs counter to the programme code framed under the Cable TV Act

NEW DELHI: The Bombay High Court on Monday held that the reportage of Republic TV and Times Now against the Mumbai police in the aftermath of the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput was prima facie contemptuous, according to a report in legal news portal Live Law.

"Criticism of city police by TV media was unfair, in view of the material placed on record. The city police was at the very basic stage of probe," the high court said.

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A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Dutta and justice GS Kulkarni said the media should avoid discussions or debate related to criminal investigations and restrict itself to informative reports in matters of public interest, the website reported.

Although the bench did not order any action against the said channels, it issued guidelines for reporting further on the ongoing investigations.

It also held that trial by media interferes with police investigation. It observed that trial by media runs counter to the programme code framed under the Cable TV Act and the media should be restrained in discussions about ongoing investigations so as not to prejudice the rights of the accused and witness.

It also observed that Press Council of India guidelines on crime reporting should be made applicable to electronic media as well.

PCI guidelines say that it is not always advisable to vigorously report crime related issues on a day-to-day basis nor to comment on supposed evidence of the crime without ascertaining the factual matrix. It maintains that newspapers shall not publish regarding the personal character of the accused standing trial on a charge of committing a crime.

In August, the Press Council of India had advised media outlets to adhere to the norms of journalistic conduct in covering cases under probe. Alluding to the reportage on Rajput, who died of suicide in June, PCI had said it had “noted with distress that coverage of the alleged suicide of a film actor by many outlets is in violation of the norms of journalistic conduct and, therefore, advises the media to adhere to the norms framed by the Press Council of India." The Press Council Of India is a statutory body in India that governs the conduct of the print media.

“The media should not narrate the story in a manner so as to induce the general public to believe in the complicity of the person indicted. Publishing information based on gossip about the line of investigation by the official agencies on the crime committed is not desirable. The media is advised not to conduct its own parallel trial or foretell the decision to avoid pressure during investigation and trial," PCI had added.

The Bombay high court today held that while reporting on suicide, casting aspersions on a person's character, reconstructing crime scenes, interviews with potential witnesses, leaking sensitive and confidential information should be avoided.

The court was giving is verdict on a batch of pleas seeking guidelines for ethical reporting, especially at the probe stage, the Live Law report said.

Earlier, the ministry of information and broadcasting had issued an advisory to all private satellite television channels asking them to broadcast content strictly adhering to Programme and Advertising Codes, which must not contain “anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half-truths".

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