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TV- latest medium to garner sympathy

delhi Updated: Aug 07, 2007 11:05 IST
Highlight Story

Calling themselves "victims of conspiracy", a growing number of law breakers are "surrendering" before popular television news channels to prove their "innocence" while claiming their life is in danger.

The latest to join this list is land scam kingpin Ashok Malhotra, who had been on the run for the past few days.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested him from outside the Zee television news channel in Noida after he surfaced dramatically on Monday morning to give an interview.

Two weeks ago, a dance teacher accused of rape walked into the India TV news studio, also in Noida, and gave an hour-long interview, before Delhi Police came and arrested him. He too pleaded innocent and said his life was in danger.

In a similar fashion last year, 21-year-old Sahil Zaroo, son of a wealthy Kashmiri carpet merchant and wanted in connection with the Rahul Mahajan drugs abuse case, drove with his lawyer to the Aaj Tak studio in Srinagar to announce his intention to surrender to the authorities.

Even as a special team of Delhi Police was trailing him, a Jammu and Kashmir Police team rushed to the studio and grabbed him up while he was still on air.

While televised surrenders may skyrocket the television rating points (TRP) of news channels, security experts are unhappy over the television drama.

Says Kiran Bedi, director general of the Bureau of Police Research and Development: "The accused know the temptation of these news channels. They know they will get tempted to air such cases. The viewer has no choice.

"Such incidents are on the rise because there is supply... There has to be a limit. Moreover things said in a news studio are not permissible in court," Bedi told IANS.

Former Delhi Police commissioner TR Kakkar says the accused want to gather as much public sympathy as they can before they give up to the police.

"Television has a wide reach and many of the viewers may not necessarily read the newspapers. It is a ploy to confuse people and make them believe that the police, and in this case the CBI, is hunting them unnecessarily.

"The point here is that these TV channels are cashing on the trend because it generates revenue apart from giving them TRPs. The bigger question is: are these news channels really sympathetic towards such people? For them it's all about making money."

Legal experts, however, have a different take on this emerging trend.

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan says the accused are resorting to such gimmicks because they think they may be tortured by the investigating agencies and the time of their arrest may be given out wrongly.

"Generally security agencies keep the accused for several days and severely torture them before they are produced before the court whereas under the law they have to produce them in front of a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. This is the primary reason why televised surrenders are on the rise," he said. "And as long the agencies keep torturing them, such incidents will continue."

Senior Supreme Court lawyer RK Anand said the accused feel the need to put their side of the story before a larger audience before they are arrested.

"This is the only chance they would get to voice their version," Anand said. "However this will not make any difference to their case because the courts will decide what is to be done."