RESEARCH QUESTION – THE IMPACT OF MEDIA TRIALS ON LEGAL PROCEEDINGS AND RIGHT OF THE DISPUTING PARTIES: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS THROUGH CASE LAWS

THE AMIKUS QRIAE

NAME – LAVANYA MITTAL

GROUP 

 SAMRIDDHI AND SUDESHNA

MONTH OF INTERNSHIP 

 APRIL

MODE OF INTERNSHIP 

VIRTUAL

TASK 

FIRST WEEK TASK

INTO-EVOLUTION

The media plays a crucial role in society, acting as the Fourth Pillar of Democracy alongside the Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary. In India, the freedom of the press is protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, emphasizing the importance of unbiased reporting and public awareness. However, recent trends have raised concerns about the impact of media trials on the justice system and the democratic process. The evolution of media from Gutenberg’s printing press to modern digital platforms has revolutionized the dissemination of information.

Media has evolved from print media to electronic media and now to digital media. Print media, with its newspapers and magazines, was the primary source of information dissemination for centuries. The advent of electronic media, including radio and television, further expanded the reach and speed of information sharing. In the digital age, with the growth of the internet, digital media in the form of videos, podcasts, and social media has become dominant. Post-liberalization, the Indian media landscape has evolved significantly. International news agencies like CNN, Bloomberg, and BBC entered the market, increasing competitiveness and professionalism. The media, once state-controlled, is now largely operated by corporate entities known for their neutral coverage of events. This shift has enhanced the proficiency of media in India. Social media has emerged as a powerful force in the media landscape, providing instant interaction and a larger user base. Social networking sites have gained immense popularity, attracting people of all ages, especially Millennials. The dominance of social media has transformed the way information is consumed and shared, impacting societal perceptions and behaviors.

One of the significant aspects of media coverage is reporting on criminal incidents. Crimes receive extensive coverage in the media, influencing public perceptions of crime, victims, and criminals. This constant reporting creates challenges for the defense, prosecution, victims, and accused individuals involved in criminal cases. The media’s portrayal of crime can shape societal judgments and opinions, potentially affecting the administration of justice. High-profile cases like the Delhi gang rape case have highlighted the media’s activist role. While media activism can raise public awareness, concerns arise when media outlets conduct trials, make unsubstantiated allegations, and influence public opinion before court judgments. This interference with the due process of law poses challenges to the justice system.

Media reporting on criminal cases raises several concerns, including biases, violation of rights, and influence on investigations and judicial decisions. The media’s portrayal of crime and individuals involved in criminal cases can sometimes go beyond ethical boundaries, hindering the fair trial process and impacting the rights of both victims and offenders. There is a fear that media influence may affect the impartiality of police officers and judges, leading to subconscious biases. The media’s primary role is to address economic considerations derived from advertisements based on Television Rating Points (TRPs). Cutthroat competition has led to sensationalized reporting, where the pursuit of higher TRPs often compromises journalistic ethics. Media organizations, influenced by business or political interests, prioritize ad revenues over unbiased reporting.

Freedom of the press is essential for democracy, enabling open discussion, monitoring government actions, and empowering citizens to make informed decisions. However, the term ‘media trial’ refers to the impact of newspapers and television on public perception before court decisions. The lack of established guidelines has led to biased reporting and interference with justice delivery. , the media’s role in democracy and the justice system in India is complex. While media activism can raise awareness and hold authorities accountable, the prevalence of media trials and biased reporting pose challenges to the due process of law. It is essential for media organizations to uphold journalistic ethics, maintain impartiality, and respect the principles of fair reporting to ensure a healthy democracy and a just society.

The evolution of media has had a profound impact on society and the criminal justice system. The rapid dissemination of information through various media channels, especially social media, has transformed how individuals perceive and interact with the world around them. Media reporting on criminal incidents plays a crucial role in shaping public opinions and attitudes towards crime and justice. However, it is essential to address the concerns related to media bias and ethical boundaries to ensure a fair and just legal system.

ORIGIN OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH

This section of the paper delves into the significant influence of media reporting on legal proceedings and the right to a fair trial. It examines the case of Khurshid Anwar, a social activist who committed suicide following media labeling him as a rapist. The analysis of Supreme Court rulings on freedom of press, emphasizing the delicate balance between individual rights and societal needs explores the role of media in ensuring justice delivery, citing cases like Jessica Lal and Priyadarshini Mattoo. Additionally, the legal guidelines issued by the Supreme Court to prevent prejudicial reporting on sub-judice matters, highlighting the importance of upholding the right to a fair trial.

The right to free speech and expression is enshrined under article 19[1][a] of the Indian constitution. The article was also manifested in the historic case of Maneka Gandhi Vs. Union of India where the court widened the scope of article by observing that right to the unrestricted ability to impart and receive information because, without adequate information, a person can neither effectively participate in social, cultural, or political life nor make an informed decision and participate strenuously in society. However it was in the State of Uttar Pradesh v Raj Narain case that ratification  of this absolute right was done and sub section[2] was added to article 19 describing the reasonale restrictions that could be invoked against 19[1][a].

Supreme Court rulings on freedom of press and the right to a fair trial are examined to understand the constitutional framework governing media coverage of legal matters. The paper highlights the importance of striking a balance between individual rights and the public interest in ensuring justice.

FREEDOM OF PRESS AND CRIMINAL CONTEMPT OF COURT

 This research paper delves into the intricate relationship between media publications and criminal contempt of court cases. It explores the criteria that determine whether media reporting interferes with the administration of justice. The media plays a crucial role in a democracy by ensuring transparency, accountability, and public awareness. However, in the context of criminal contempt of court cases, media publications can sometimes interfere with the administration of justice. Analyzes of the laws and regulations governing media reporting in criminal matters highlights the categories of publications that may amount to prejudicial publications.

There are certain responsibilities of the media in reporting criminal cases, emphasizing the need for accurate and unbiased information dissemination. the freedom of the press is protected under Article 19(1)(a) and the limitations imposed by Article 19(2) to prevent contemptuous publications. In addition to reasonable restrictions listed under article 19[2] which also includes contempt of court, self-regulation practices are also followed by the Indian media. Various categories of publications that may amount to contempt of court, are reports affecting the accused’s character, premature conclusions on the case, or publicizing police confessions. It also highlights the significance of avoiding publications that claim innocence of the accused or criticize witnesses, as these actions can interfere with the administration of justice.

The criminal contempt of court includes publication of scandalus and prejudicial content as well as negative interference in  the administration of justice. Now to be specific, administration of justice is a wider phrase which is emphasized as “…The administration of justice is not confined to the courts; it encompasses officers of the law and others whose duties are necessary to ensure that the courts function effectively. The concern of the administration of justice is the fair, just and impartial upholding of rights, and punishment of wrongs, according to the rule of law.” There is a difference between administrative processes and jucidial process. Judicial process is concentrated to proceedings in the court howevert any action taken in pursuance of case immediately after registration of FIR comes under the umbrella of administrative proceedings.

There is a distinction between media trials and media reporting of crimes, drawing on various cases and laws from jurisdictions like the USA, U.K, Australia, and New Zealand, which are also relevant to the Indian context. It highlights categories of publications that could be considered prejudicial, leading to contempt of court. These include publications revealing the accused’s character, premature conclusions, confessions to the police, comments on case merits, and actions that reveal the accused’s identity or interfere with investigations.

Furthermore, the court is empowered to punish publishers for contemptuous publications, emphasizing that non-contemptuous publications do not warrant punishment. The Bombay High Court acknowledged the challenge of defining acts that disrupt justice, emphasizing the need for decisions based on justice, equity, and good conscience. The Law Commission’s distinction between contemptuous and non-contemptuous publications in criminal matters serves as a criterion to determine if publication interferes with the administration of justice. Criteria for prejudicial publications encompass various aspects like revealing the accused’s character, premature conclusions, comments on case merits, and actions that reveal the accused’s identity or interfere with investigations.

This research paper underscores the importance of responsible media reporting in criminal contempt of court cases. It emphasizes the need for media houses and journalists to adhere to ethical standards, avoid prejudicial publications, and uphold the principles of justice, equity, and good conscience. By understanding the criteria for contemptuous publications and the impact on the administration of justice, the media can play a constructive role in upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of all parties involved in criminal proceedings.

MEDIA TRIAL, FAIR TRIAL AND SENSATIONALISM

The aim of the paper is to look into the impact of media trials on the fair justice system, analyzing cases where media reporting has influenced criminal proceedings. The paper examines the contrast between media trials and fair trials, highlighting the positive and negative effects of media influence on the administration of justice. It also discusses the challenges posed by unregulated media reporting and the consequences of sensationalism on the criminal justice system. Media trial has become a prevalent term in contemporary society, often contrasting with the principles of fair trial. media coverage can shape public opinion, influence investigations, and impact the outcomes of criminal cases. It delves into the role of investigative journalism in ensuring justice prevails, while also addressing instances where media sensationalism has led to miscarriages of justice.

The literature review examines past cases where media influence has affected criminal proceedings, such as the Jessica Lal Murder case and the Ajmal Kasab trial. It discusses the dangers of media trials outlined by the Apex Court and the need for regulating media interference in legal processes. The review also highlights instances where media reporting has compromised fair trial rights and influenced public perception. The case of Khurshid Anwar serves as a poignant example of the detrimental effects of irresponsible media reporting on legal proceedings, where the media’s power to shape public opinion and influence legal outcomes is evident in cases like Khurshid Anwar’s, where premature judgment led to tragic consequences. The Supreme court also discusses the need for responsible reporting that upholds the principles of ‘proving beyond reasonable doubt’ and ‘innocent till proven guilty’ in this case. It can also be viewed as violation of another fundamental right that is article 22 i.e Rights of the accused.

The impact of media trial on the fairness of criminal proceedings, analyzing the role of investigative journalism, sensational reporting, and premature disclosure of trial information is discussed in key cases like the Manu Sharma case and Ajmal Kasab trial, highlighting instances of media interference in high-profile cases. concerns were also raised in the dissenting opinion in Romila Thapar v. Union of India regarding the misuse of electronic media by investigation agencies, emphasizing the need for responsible journalism to uphold the integrity of the justice system. The above mentioned cases focusing on the challenges posed by unregulated media reporting and the influence of public opinion on judicial proceedings.

The findings reveal a complex relationship between media influence and the fair justice system. While media reporting can sometimes lead to justice being served, it can also prejudice fair trials, manipulate public opinion, and usurp the powers of the criminal justice administration. It also highlights the importance of balancing media freedom with the integrity of the justice system. It calls for stricter regulations to prevent media sensationalism, protect fair trial rights, and ensure that the criminal justice system remains unbiased and efficient. 

IMPLICATIONS OF MEDIA TRIAL VIS-A-VIS PROMINENT CASES

The conflict between the freedom of the press and the right of the accused to a fair trial poses challenges in the administration of justice. Media sensationalism, especially in cases of rape, murder, and corruption, can distort public perception and erode confidence in the legal system. The media’s power to shape public opinion and polarize views further complicates the delicate balance between media freedom and the rights of the accused. The media’s capacity to influence public opinion is significant, with the emergence of right-wing and left-wing press contributing to political polarization. By portraying the legal system as defective or biased towards the accused, media trials can sway public opinion against the functioning of the legal system, potentially undermining the principles of justice and fairness.

Media trials often violate the privacy of the accused and undermine the presumption of innocence. Prejudicial reporting by the media can put undue pressure on authorities conducting investigations, jeopardizing the integrity of the legal process. The imbalance between freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial raises critical concerns regarding the protection of fundamental rights in criminal proceedings. The impact of media trials on the administration of justice and the rights of the accused in India is a complex and multifaceted issue. Balancing media freedom with the principles of justice and fairness is essential to uphold the integrity of the legal system and safeguard the rights of individuals facing criminal charges. Addressing the challenges posed by media sensationalism and prejudicial reporting is crucial to ensure a fair and impartial administration of justice in India.

SALMAN KHAN CASE

Salman Khan was involved in a hit and run incident in 2002, resulting in one death and four injuries. Despite being charged and convicted of culpable homicide and driving without a license while intoxicated, he was later acquitted due to the unreliability of a key witness. The media exploited the situation for increased TRP, focusing on sensationalism rather than accountability. The court emphasized the need to remain impartial despite media pressure, highlighting that public opinion influenced by media coverage should not impact legal judgments as media tried to white-wash the superstar’s image by continuously advertising his ‘salman bhai image’ and his different charities.

NOIDA MURDER CASE

The Noida Double Murder Case involved Aarushi Talwar’s death in 2008. Her parents, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, were initially convicted in 2013 but later acquitted in 2017 due to insufficient evidence. The media’s biased reporting and sensationalism were criticized for influencing public opinion and hindering the investigation. Way before the pronouncement of judgement of the court , media questioned the morality of Talwar family. The Supreme Court intervened, banning information that could impede the case and chastising the media for inaccurate reporting. This case highlights the negative impact of media coverage on the accused’s rights and the fair administration of justice. 

SUSHANT SINGH RAJPUT

The high-profile case of Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput’s death initially deemed a suicide by Mumbai Police. Following a FIR against Rhea Chakraborty and others, the media extensively covered the case, violating privacy by discussing Sushant’s mental health and medical records. Conspiracy theories emerged, leading to a PIL in the Bombay High Court urging responsible media reporting on suicide cases to avoid hindering justice. Since it was continuously live streamed for 2-3 months ignoring issues like covid-19, it became the biggest media trial which succeeded in tarnishing Rhea’s public image. 

EXISTING SHORTCOMINGS WITHIN THE MEDIA FRAMEWORK

Despite the presence pf stringent laws related the media and freedom of speech, there still exist certain gaps within the proclaimed framework. These are-

ESCALATING PRIVATIZATION OF MEDIA

The current media market trends in India show a significant increase in cross-media ownership, where one company dominates print, television, and radio. Corporations view owning multiple media platforms as a means to exert influence, boost earnings, and achieve financial goals. Top media companies are often owned by conglomerates with investments in diverse sectors, such as Reliance Media in India, which holds substantial sway over numerous media outlets. However, this trend has raised concerns about its impact on democracy due to flaws in the legal framework meant to safeguard media diversity and prevent excessive media concentration.

SENSATIONALISM OF NEWS

Sensationalism of News is a rhetorical strategy used in mass media to present events and topics in a compelling manner for readers and viewers. This style of news reporting often includes emotionally charged or biased interpretations, distorting the truth of a story. The media’s focus on sensationalism is primarily motivated by the desire for high ratings, leading television networks to spin stories into controversies to gain a competitive edge. This practice can have a lasting impact on public perception and raise doubts about the authenticity of news sources, prompting individuals to question the accuracy of the information they receive.

 LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY OF MEDIA

The concept of media accountability revolves around the idea that mass media should be held responsible for serving the public interest. The NSBA, as the governing body for electronic media, functions on a self-regulation framework. However, a significant issue arises as the NSBA is composed of representatives from member news stations, which compromises its impartiality. This setup results in a lack of accountability as the body responsible for addressing complaints and grievances is essentially judging its own members. Moreover, since the NSBA’s jurisdiction only covers its members, other news stations operate without much regulation, following their own rules. To address these shortcomings, there is a clear need for an impartial, timely, proactive, participative, and universally dedicated accountability system for all mass media outlets to ensure effective oversight and accountability across the industry.

ONLINE JOURNALISM

The rise of online journalism has reduced the institutional press’s exclusive access to the public. Anyone can now share information globally, challenging traditional journalistic boundaries. Emerging digital actors without formal education are reshaping the industry. However, the lack of regulation in online journalism raises concerns about credibility and authenticity.

DEMAND FOR CHANGES

There is a need for regulation in the media industry. It explores the implications of censorship on freedom of the press and the potential risks of returning to a state-controlled media environment. There is also the need of transparency in ownership patterns of news channels, adherence to criminal laws by journalists, and the need for media outlets to allow the legal process to unfold without bias.The section delves into the significance of responsible reporting, emphasizing the need for impartiality, neutrality, and revisiting of cases for effective journalism. The negative impact of sensationalism on the judicial process and the importance of representing both sides of a story in a fair and balanced manner is required in today’s time. Based on the findings of various research done in this field, recommendations are made for the media industry to enhance accountability, promote responsible reporting, and ensure that the media plays a constructive role in the judicial process. Suggestions include the appointment of independent ombudsmen for complaints, adherence to legal guidelines, and transparency in ownership patterns of news channels.

REMEDIES FOR NEGATIVE IMPACT OF OVER-PUBLICITY OF HIGH PROFILE CASES

This section of the paper explores the effectiveness of jury instructions and gag orders in combating pretrial publicity in legal proceedings. It delves into the conflicting data regarding jurors’ adherence to instructions to ignore outside information and the issuance of gag orders on participants to prevent prejudicial effects. The differing standards for gag orders compared to press regulation are examined, along with criticisms of their efficacy. Challenges posed by leaks and reliance on rumors by the press despite gag orders and Inconsistencies in the application of gag order standards across circuit courts are highlighted.Pretrial publicity can significantly impact the fairness of legal proceedings, prompting judges to employ jury instructions and gag orders as tools to mitigate its effects.  

Jury Instructions:

Research indicates that jurors may not always adhere to instructions to disregard outside information, leading to concerns about the influence of pretrial publicity on trial outcomes. Courts recognize the limitations of jury instructions as imperfect filters against external influences.

Gag Orders:

Judges can issue gag orders on participants to prevent prejudicial effects, with a standard less demanding than that for regulating the press. However, critics argue that gag orders may not fully address the issue, as parties often leak information or the press relies on alternative sources. The lack of clear standards for gag orders on participants has resulted in inconsistent application across circuit courts, leading to varying levels of effectiveness in curbing pretrial publicity.

While jury instructions and gag orders serve as mechanisms to combat pretrial publicity, their efficacy is subject to challenges such as juror compliance, leaks, and inconsistent application. Further research and judicial guidance are needed to enhance the effectiveness of these measures in preserving the integrity of legal proceedings amidst media influences.

Privacy laws play a crucial role in protecting individuals from unwarranted intrusion into their private lives. There are two significant aspects of privacy laws   Public Disclosure of Private Facts and Breach of Confidentiality. These aim to provide legal remedies for violations of privacy and breaches of confidentiality.

Public Disclosure of Private Facts:

The law of Public Disclosure of Private Facts seeks to address the dissemination of truthful yet damaging private information. However, courts have set substantial hurdles for plaintiffs, making it challenging to recover under this tort. The concept of “legitimate public concern” has been broadly defined, weakening the effectiveness of this law. Many scholars argue for the elimination of this rule due to its limitations.

Law of Confidentiality:

This law requires the breach of a duty of confidentiality, often limited to specific relationships like physician-patient interactions. Third-party liability for breaches of confidentiality is often committed in India., resulting in media accountability under this tort.

Privacy laws serve as essential legal mechanisms to safeguard individuals’ privacy rights. However, the challenges and limitations faced by plaintiffs in pursuing claims under these torts raise concerns about their efficacy. Further examination and potential reforms may be necessary to ensure adequate protection of privacy in the evolving digital age.

CONCLUSION

The article emphasizes the critical need for responsible media reporting in criminal contempt of court cases. It highlights the detrimental effects of media trials on the fair justice system and the importance of upholding ethical standards in journalism. The challenges posed by unregulated media reporting, sensationalism, and the impact on the administration of justice are thoroughly examined. Recommendations for stricter regulations, transparency in ownership patterns, and promoting responsible reporting are suggested to ensure a balanced and unbiased media environment. Overall, the article underscores the significance of maintaining a delicate balance between media freedom and the integrity of the justice system to safeguard the rights of all parties involved in legal proceedings.

WORK CITED PAGE

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Psychol Rev 275

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Affect Juries’ (2000) 33 Loy L A L Rev 725

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(2008) 71 Law & Contemp Probs 181

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