The Bombay High Court on Monday said that some reporting by Republic TV and Times Now against the Mumbai police in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case were “prima facie contemptuous” but the court refrained from taking any punitive measures against the two channels. A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni was pronouncing its verdict on PILs seeking regulation of ‘media trial.’
The bench had reserved its verdict on the PILs on 6 November.
Chief Justice Dutta, according to Livelaw, said, “We have held that media trial runs counter to the program code framed under the Cable TV Act.. We have also issued guidelines for 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.”
[Breaking] Bombay High Court observes that some reporting of the Republic TV @republic and Times Now @TimesNow against Mumbai police @MumbaiPolice in the SSR matter are "prima facie contemptuous" but refrains from taking action.
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) January 18, 2021
The court observed that ‘press/media ought to avoid discussions, debates relating to criminal investigation and should confine only to informative reports in such matters in public interest.’
The court said that while reporting suicide, to suggest that the person was of weak character, should be avoided. The reconstruction of crime scenes, interviews with potential witnesses, leaking sensitive and confidential information should also be avoided.
The court, however, made it clear that ‘findings and observations in the judgment are not a reflection on the pending investigations and the concerned criminal court should decide the issues uninfluenced by the observations.’
The bench in October had come down heavily on Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV for its media trial in the Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case. Mincing no words, the bench had warned the TV channel to not cross its boundary. “We are only saying you must know your boundaries and within your boundaries, you are allowed to do everything. Do not Cross-Over,” the high court had warned.