Why no action against media trial in Sushant Singh Rajput death case? Bombay HC asks Ministry of Information and BroadcastingUpdated: Oct 20, 2020, 00:18 IST
The Bombay high court has asked the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) why no action had been initiated on the complaints related to media trial in the death case of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by individuals, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and a group of former top police officers, seeking a restraint on media trials.
The court was informed by senior counsel Arvind Datar, representing the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), that the self-regulatory mechanism for channels was doing its work diligently.
NBA also implored the Bombay high court (HC) to not give in to the requests of the petitioners – who sought directions for the formation of a statutory authority to regulate the electronic media – as it would lead to an end of the independence of media.
NBA submitted that the self-regulatory mechanism which is in place has been very effective in redressing complaints against channels and all the members have strictly adhered to its regulations, with the exception of Republic TV and its Hindi channel. NBA informed the court that Republic TV did not want to abide by its regulations and hence, left the association, and went on to form its own self-regulating authority.
The two authorities were responding to allegations by the petitioners that the electronic media was conducting media trials during which they resorted to police bashing, disclosed vital details of the ongoing investigations and tried to influence the opinion of viewers. The petitioners had stated that independent self-regulating authorities in the form of NBA and NBSA were not taking sufficient steps to curb channels from conducting media trials.
Datar, however, refuted the allegations and submitted that they had time and again taken disciplinary action, and at times stringent action, against errant channels by banning its airing for three days to three months. He submitted that though the two authorities did not have any statutory powers, it was adjudicating complaints based on the programme code as directed by the MIB.
Datar concluded by coaxing the court to not grant the requests of the petitioners to have a statutory body to regulate the electronic media, as it would become difficult for the media to function independently. He also cited the Supreme Court judgments in which the Apex court had refused to interfere or direct the legislative to form a statutory mechanism to regulate the electronic media. In light of this, Datar requested the court to not exercise its discretionary authority.
After hearing the submissions of NBA and NBSA, the bench sought to know from MIB if the two independent authorities were formed without any statutory powers so that channels could afford an escape route by invoking Article 19(2) of the Constitution and approaching the courts when they were pulled up for irresponsible and objectionable reporting.
Datar, however, clarified that though the two independent authorities were allowed to address complaints against errant channels, the MIB was not restricted from taking action simultaneously as per the Cable TV Regulation Act. The court then asked MIB to inform it on Wednesday as to why no action had been initiated by the ministry with respect to the complaints related to media trial in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.