Trial by media results in denigration of justice delivery system: Kerala HC

Kerala High Court | Source: PTI

Kochi: Trial by media results in denigration of the justice delivery system and prejudicing mankind against the parties involved, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday observed while restraining a news channel from publishing or broadcasting anything, except orders of the trial court, regarding the brother-in-law of actor Dileep while reporting about the actress assault case.

Justice Mohammed Nias C P said the interim direction would remain in effect for a period of three weeks from today.

The order came on a plea by Dileep's brother-in-law T N Suraj, who has alleged that certain police officers were leaking out materials allegedly collected during investigation and including those from the in camera trial in the 2017 case and that the same was forming the basis for false and fabricated stories in the media.

The court in its interim order directed the police officers, accused of leaking information about the case, to file affidavits dealing with the said allegations.

The State Police Chief was directed to ensure that no information regarding the investigation of the 2017 actress assault case shall be leaked out to anyone by any of the investigating officers.

Suraj, in his plea, has also alleged that the news channel was fabricating more and more allegations against Dileep and him about matters which are pending investigation and are sub judice in the ongoing trial.

He has further claimed that the news channel was "resorting to sensationalism/ publication/ broadcast of fabricated allegations against the accused persons and their associates".

Such reporting interferes with the administration of justice, causes prejudice to the petitioner and damages his reputation and that of his close relatives, Suraj has contended in his plea.

After perusing the news items telecast by the channel that were placed before the court, it said if what was placed before it was true then it was "nothing but gross interference in the due administration of justice".

"The petitioner's apprehension that the 6th respondent (news channel) will indulge in similar telecasts in future has sound basis.

"As stated above, since these reports interferes/obstructs the due course of justice going by the principles culled out from the various decisions of the Apex Court, the sixth respondent is to be prevented from telecasting/publishing the reports in the nature of contents revealed in the exhibits," the high court said.

The court went on to say that "media cannot usurp the jurisdiction of the courts which alone have the constitutional authority to decide the guilt/innocence of a person or decide on the content, quality or the width of any right available to any citizen/accused/suspect".

"Half truths and misinformation cannot be the basis of publications or telecasts. The media cannot be given the right to speculate on the outcome of the ongoing investigations or the court proceedings or criminal trials.

"Publication of leaks from the investigation agencies and to level allegations against individuals based on such leaks are not protected by the freedom of press under Article 19 (a) of the Constitution..," the high court said.

It further said that reports/telecast "have the effect of prejudicing mankind against the parties and the court before the case is heard clearly" and therefore, it interferes with the course of justice.

"In a trial by the media which apart from adversely affecting the rights of an accused for a fair trial has immense power to influence public opinion. A perception is created for or against the accused in the mind of the laymen.

"So much so, that when a Judge passes a verdict which may be totally against the layman's perception, it causes him to distrust the integrity of the very legal system. This loss of faith in the justice delivery system is aggravated when the judge, not the judgment itself, is subjected to media criticism," Justice Nias said.

"In such cases, trial by media results in denigration of the justice delivery system which without doubt, is the very foundation of the rule of law in any democratic set up," the court added.


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