There could be soon guidelines for media briefing by police officers in criminal cases with the Supreme Court saying on Tuesday that it might lay down certain rules to prevent a person’s reputation from being tarnished unnecessarily.
A bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice NV Ramana said it was a serious issue. The bench was concerned about the way the media covers a person’s arrest.
“Reputation of a person is very important. People may be arrested God only knows for what. If they are shown on electronic media, their reputation is smeared forever, even though they may be acquitted later,” the bench noted.
The court asked the Centre, states, union territories, press council of India and the NHRC who are also parties to the PIL filed by NGO, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in 1990, to submit their views within two weeks on a questionnaire prepared by amicus curiae Gopal Shankarnarayan who is assisting the court in the case.
The points outlined for consideration are whether an accused can be paraded before the media, if his/her identity can be revealed immediately upon his/her arrest and if evidence against the person can be revealed or played out live on TV.
The court will deal with the question whether “media trial” hampers the judicial trial.
Making its intention clear that it would dispose the petition soon, the bench said the PIL should not be kept pending for long.
The petitioner, NGO People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) wants guidelines for media coverage of criminal cases.
Justice Khehar observed the case was last heard on April 1, 2010. He pointed out that the case never came up for hearing.
“There is no order since then. This is Trishanku. Let’s bring it down to earth,” he observed in a lighter vein, while adjourning the matter for two weeks.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for PUCL told the court that releasing names of suspects even before the FIR was filed in some cases in press statements results in “pre-judging” a case.
“The media often splashes this and very often totally innocent persons’ reputations are smeared beyond repair,” he told the bench.