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Media Trial: Hindrance in our Justice Delivery System

Author: Nehal Rathi, a student at New Law College, Pune


INTRODUCTION

In the age of the internet, we all are connected with each other and are aware of events, and news from all across the nation. Social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, What’s App, etc have been an integral part of our lives. It has not only restructured our way of communication but has also reclassified the manners by which we impart and express. From Television to Newspapers, from Radio to Internet, media plays a significant part in each area of industry. However online media offers a worldwide stage to share and communicate yet its consistent engagement, and interference is influencing an individual’s efficiency, productivity, relationships, and society overall.

WHAT IS A MEDIA TRIAL?

In this modern age, everything is trumped by the media. From the very moment, we wake and till the time we sleep back. Whenever a shocking or a disputable or a case with high profile parties proceeds to court for the hearing, it intensifies the anticipation inside the overall population around the world and they want to know and keep themselves updated with every single advancement made by the court during the procedures, or any new proof which is found by the investigating team, or any individual’s name coming out to be potentially charged, etc.  

And whenever an individual sees any such story or article, everyone on their individual level starts to form a perspective exactly based on the stories and article and then there are different speculations on the same and later starts giving direct judgment, based on the articles which are portrayed by the news channel and media. All of these things happen before the verdict is given by the court. This whole course of influencing in its entirety is known as the ‘Media Trial’. In simple words, the most common way of declaring the accused as a convict even before the court has given its judgment is called a media trial. 

FREE TRIAL v. PRESS TRIAL 

Our constitution has not yet declared media trials “unconstitutional”. Article 19 of our Indian Constitution states that Article 19(1) All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression; to assemble peaceably and without arms; to form associations or unions; to move freely throughout the territory of India; to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and omitted to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. Article 19 hinders the right to a free and fair trial. A media trial also infringes the right to privacy of an accused person. While the media asserts that it has the option to uncover the reality and advise the general population, it could and has frequently gotten carried away with its opportunity and freedom. Accordingly, there is a conflict between the media’s right to free speech and the accused’s right to a free and fair trial in such situations. As the media often announces the charged liable way before his arrest and proceedings have started. 

But multiple times, the Media has violated those principles and proclaimed to be a judge. Each party in a court has a protected right to a Fair Trial and this ought to be finished by a fair-minded or honest council that is uninfluenced by the one-sided media house. This preliminary by media or press is exceptionally opposite to law and order which will lead to misconception and misjudgment in the court of law. In Annual Chandra Pradhan V. Union of India, the supreme court stated that no event ought to emerge in light of a media trial that would prompt to direct impact on the fundamentals of a Fair Trial and the essential rule of statute including the assumptions of the honesty of the accused unless proven guilty towards the end of the Trial.

CASES WHERE MEDIA PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE

There have been numerous cases that the media took into their own hands. There are also many cases where with the help of the media we have gotten a clear picture of the case. Media Trials can be followed back to the twentieth-century phrase the expression “Media trials” had been instituted lately had gotten its significance from the instance of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (1921) who was released by the court, however, had lost all his standing and glory alongside his work after the media had proclaimed him “guilty”. Another famous case was the preliminary of O.J. Simpson (1995), where the media had advanced the case and profoundly affected the personalities of the watchers even over the status with the court. Clearly, the media profoundly supports or impacts the perspectives on open. 

Media trials very often indulge themselves, when cases include some public figure and famous personalities and also where there are certain controversies involved, as it assists media with accomplishing the most extreme Television Rating Point (TRP). Inferable from this, media introduce and distribute news, reports, and articles that normally incorporate their own form of the story and is contrary to the genuine one. There are many cases where the last decision was influenced by the course of the media trial. As of late, “Sushant Singh Rajput’s case” and regularly known “Aarushi Murder case”, and so on In this way, basically, Media had brought different cases into their hands and given decisions which were totally in inconsistency with the reasonable contradiction to the official court decision. Taking into account the above-expressed realities, the Media trial is infuriating our justice and framework.

IMPACT OF MEDIA TRIAL

Media trial impacts everyone on different levels. It not only impacts an individual it also impacts the judiciary, Judges, free trial, accused, and society at large. Media has now rejuvenated itself into a ‘public court’ which can likewise be alluded to as “Janta Adalat” and is involved in court procedures to such an extent that it articulates its own decision even before the court of law delivers justice. It totally ignores the indispensable gap between a charged and a convict. Looking behind the principles of presumption of  “Innocent until proven guilty” and “Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”. 

Impact on Judges: – Media Trials once in a while subliminally influence the decision of the Judges. They get affected by the biased choice of the media, which makes a concealed strain on the adjudicators. After all, judges are likewise people. They may, in general, get swayed by the media especially in high-profile cases just to be in the spotlight, and consequently, it comes up to the choice of what the media needs. Media is additionally so impactful that even the adjudicators couldn’t avoid it. Media is everywhere and one cannot avoid it.  

Impact on Fair Trial: – For the situation of  Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd. also, Ors. v. Protections and Exchange Board of India and Anr, the high court expresses that the media has a privilege to realize what’s going on in courts and to advance the data to the public which might illuminate the public trust in the straightforwardness of the court procedures. Once in a while a reasonable and precise revealing of the media would create a danger of bias yet this doesn’t occur in the forthcoming proceedings. Consequently, media trials likewise influence the Trial of the court. 

Impact on Accused: – Media trials can damagingly influence the existence of any individual. Once in a while, a bias of the media goes off-base and the court pronounces it innocent such an individual. In such a case, these individuals dive into deep injury, lose their poise, and can’t live in society peacefully. Their day-to-day routines became hopeless and they experience their entire existence with the tag of criminal since half of the general public previously believed him to be so. 

Impact on Society: – Due to high exposure in the public eye, individuals get profoundly one-sided by what the media conveys. They trust it to be valid, in this manner which makes public strain on the official courtroom. Henceforth individuals assume an indispensable part in delivering justice in India.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

There’s positively no doubt that the media is the “fourth pillar of our democracy” as it fulfills our interests, and decreases uncertainty by giving us the information which we want to see. For example, in our criminal law, the accused is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. In any case, the Media’s preliminary works are in opposition to this hypothesis. Subsequently, there’s a need to eliminate this from our justice delivery framework. To prevent such trials, the government of the country needs to take strict actions against the media. A few measures which the author thinks might work are: 

  • Indian news channels are governed by the “News Broadcast Federation” and the “News Broadcasters Association”. There is no government regulatory body governing them. If the government creates a statutory regulatory body, it will help all the media houses and news channels to work according to the code of conduct of the government regulatory body and abide by the rules and regulations designed by the body. As of now all channels and media houses have their own code of conduct to follow. So in that way, if something is unethical for one it might be ethical for the other. This regulatory body would not curb the opportunity of media yet would rather upgrade the major privileges of the media house by carrying greater responsibility and authenticity to the news.
  • Since these bodies are self-regulatory bodies, the complaints which are filled are handled by the officers of the leading news channel themselves, which in turn solves no problem. If a tribunal is created to look after these things that might help to prevent fake news reports from circulating. Since the current self-regulatory framework has failed, the time has come to set up a tribunal that would keep a check on the malicious and questionable acts of the media. This will be a more effective and efficient framework as it will be able to assess all the pros and cons with a neutral mindset.
  • As there are no laws governing the media houses and news channels, there should be a proper law that needs to be introduced in our constitution. Which include the rights and the duties of the media houses and news channels have towards the Nation. There should be a proper punishment for those news channels and media houses that goes against the community standards of the same. There is a requirement for a practical and proficient lawful structure that focuses on open interests over private interests to prevent the subjective exercise of the media channels as delighted in by them under a self-regulatory framework.

CONCLUSION

There have been many cases where the media has played a crucial role in determining whether the accused is guilty or innocent. Even if the media does not deliver the decision, because the facts mentioned by the media houses are not clear and statements given by them are open to interpretation it causes a lot of disruption and people start giving judgment before the verdict of the court on the bases of those statements. This causes wrong opinions to form in the brain of the society which hinders the decision-making capacity of the court. The media has the right to discuss and comment on the case judgments but they have no right or freedom to start a trial on sub-judice matters. The right of the accused to have a fair trial is always more important than the freedom of media before starting the trial of the pending case.


REFERENCES

https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/article-19-1-of-the-constitution-of-india-explained-1632744644-1
https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-7654-present-role-of-media-trial-in-india.html
http://www.whiteblacklegal.co.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Vol-1-Issue-6-part-II.pdf
https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/05/singh-prakhar-media-regulation/

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