Sushant Singh Rajput case: Sufficient regulations exist for media, no need for more, Centre tells Bombay HC
The Union government on Wednesday informed the Bombay high court (HC) that while it did not justify media trials, there were sufficient statutory and regulatory framework in place to ensure that electronic media does not overstep, and hence it did not see any reason to put in place any additional guidelines as prayed for by petitioners in various public interest litigations (PIL). A number of PILs were filed against the media trial conducted by various news channels in the ongoing investigations on the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
The petitioners stated that as the electronic media was resorting to bashing the police, disclosure of confidential data pertaining to investigations, exposing important witnesses and parties who are part of the investigations, and taking judgemental stands aimed at influencing the opinion of the public, the HC should direct the media to refrain from such reporting. The PILs also sought directions to the Central government to frame guidelines for controlling the way in which in media, especially the electronic media, functioned. The petitioners submitted that while the Press Council of India regulated the operations of print media, there was no such authority for the electronic media.
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni continued hearing the petitioners on Wednesday wherein it was informed by advocates Neela Gokhale, Asim Sarode and Sunny Punamiya, for various petitioners, that various channels had overstepped their limits and compromised the investigation and also asked family members of parties involved to express their opinions on the investigation and name suspects. The advocates submitted that this was against various Supreme Court judgements that had restrained people from divulging details of ongoing investigations and directed the media to show restraint while reporting sensitive criminal cases.
One of the advocates also submitted that the reporting by some news channels, while reporting on the investigations, had violated consumer rights and infringed the provisions of the Mental Health Act. In light of these submissions, the petitioners sought directions to frame additional guidelines for news channels.
Additional solicitor general Anil Singh, representing the Union of India, while responding to a query made by the bench on Monday on whether there was any mechanism to regulate news channels on the lines of Press Council of India, submitted that the Cable TV Regulation Act has guidelines under the Programme Code which sufficed to regulate the electronic media. He further submitted that time and again the Apex court had observed that there was already reasonable restraint on the media, and hence there was no need for any additional mechanism to control the media.
“We do not justify media trials, however there exists statutory and regulatory framework which covers the electronic media,” said Singh.
Due to paucity of time, the bench asked Singh and the respondent associations and channels to make their submissions on Friday and adjourned the hearing.