The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a plea of self-styled godman Asaram, arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a minor, for restraining the media from covering the sexual assault case against him.
A bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, "At present, we cannot entertain your petition,"
The bench, however, gave the liberty to 72-year-old jailed godman to approach again if he feels aggrieved of subsequent media coverage in the case.
"Suppose, the victim and the family go to the police for lodging the complaint and then informs the press or the police informs the press after registering the case, can we restrain them?" the court said.
However, senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Asaram, cited certain captions used by some news channels in their reports and said "our grievance is against the mutilation of news reports. I am not against the media coverage. I have no difficulty with the correct reporting."
One of the news channels went further and said the medical reports confirmed rape, Singh said adding it is not the case of even the victim that she was raped.
The counsel said Asaram had the legal option to approach the court seeking "postponement" of media coverage.
Some news channels run news, related to the case only, at the prime time as Asaram has seven crore followers and this raises their TRPs which ultimately leads to increase in the rate of commercials, Singh said.
Alleging trial by the media, the counsel said that on the one hand, the accused was not allowed to refer to the contents of the girl's statement, recorded by the magistrate, while on the other, it is available to the media.
The court, however, declined to give any direction at the stage said: "we are not on maintainability. We are not undermining your prayer but the question is can we pass such a direction at this stage".
Asaram was arrested in August on the charge of sexually assaulting a minor girl and has been in prison at Jodhpur in Rajasthan since then. He had on October 8 moved the Supreme Court seeking to restrain the media from carrying out its own trial against him.
The lawyer had said there were 10,000 boys and girls studying in his clients' ashrams and the media reports were adversely affecting them.
Video: SC rejects Asaram's plea to stop media from reporting case