MEDIA INVESTIGATION AND TRIALS IN INDIA
Media is considered to be one of the most important and inevitable sources through which information can be gained and the citizens can be aware of the prevailing issues in the country. Media is the field which enjoys the highest level of Freedom of Speech and Expression when compared to all other citizens of the country, with very limited restrictions. It is indeed a matter of utmost disappointment when this freedom is found to be misused, which is predominately the situation nowadays. Media has the power to influence people’s minds and the problem arises when the information fed into the minds of people is found to be fake and unreal happenings. The spreading of fake news also has the power to influence the decision making capacities of the Judiciary in sensational cases. This can turn out to be disastrous when it hinders the process of delivering justice.
What initially started out as a simple matter of Investigative Journalism, which involves the collection and publishing of information which are concealed, has now turned out to what we now call as “Trials by Media” or “Media Trials”. The concept of media trials is basically the media deciding who is guilty in a legal case based on the facts presented to them, even before the Judiciary delivers its judgement. This concept is so evolved that sometimes the “Media Court” forms its judgement even before the Judicial Courts hear them. This creates a hinderance in the process of administration of justice since the Media influence the people in large numbers and the judges are forced to deliver their judgement in correspondence with it. If they deliver a judgement which is against the judgement by the “Media Courts”, they are criticised for not delivering a proper and just judgement. This is even more devastating when the media publishes its judgement on the basis of improper or fake facts and influence the public with an unjust proclamation. In these situations, the judges, even after studying the intricate details involved in the case and finally delivering a fair judgement, are brutally criticized for merely going against the Media’s judgement. This is clearly due to the media’s effective influence on people which makes them question the sole bodies responsible for reinstating justice. But all said so, as there are two sides to a coin, the trials by media also have some positive effects alongside their negative influences. In cases where the information is kept away from the public, media plays an important role in bringing those existing and concealed facts within the reach of common man. Collecting and delivering information is considered to be totally fine, but the media forming its own judgement based on those facts is considered to be unacceptable.
MEDIA TRIAL CASES IN INDIA:
1. THE AARUSHI TALWAR MURDER CASE:
This was one of the most sensational and talked-about cases in 2008 when 13-year-old Aarushi Talwar was brutally murdered in her house. She was found devoid of her life with her throat slit, by her parents during the early hours of 15th May 2008. This is one of the very few murder cases which baffled both the police and the public since the murdered could not be identified. There were no witnesses and clues present in the crime scene which could’ve helped to form a conclusion about the murderer. It was due to the hype created by the media and the publishing of improper facts relating to this case by them, the public began to suspect the parents to be the murderers. Very soon, the public began to demand the parents to be punished for this horrifying murder of Aarushi. The judiciary also got influenced by this huge uproar and ordered the parents, Rajesh Talwar and Nupur Talwar, to be arrested based on the presence of circumstantial evidences. It was only after 5 long years, both Rajesh and Nupur were declared to be innocent and they were released immediately. This is one of the famous cases where the media’s trial and judgement influenced the judiciary to proclaim a wrongful and unfair judgement. Although the judiciary acquitted the Talwars of all charges in 2013 and delivered justice, but at what cost?
2. NIRBHAYA GANG RAPE CASE:
This incident, even though occurred 9 years ago, still remains in the minds of every Indian citizen as a fresh wound. Who can forget the brutal gang rape of a 23 year old physiotherapy intern on 16th December, 2012 which costed her life? The media played an important and indispensable role in the process of delivering justice to the young girl. Since Indian laws prohibit the names of rape victims to be published, the media gave her the fictional name “Nirbhaya”, which meant “the fearless one”. It was only due to media’s excessive coverage of the incident, this became a sensation not only nation-wide, but also received support from every part in the world. The numerous protests across the globe, forced the judiciary to make sure that the six men who committed this inhumane act got what they deserved- punishment and Nirbhaya- Justice. This incident paved way for the various reforms which were brought in for enhancing the safety of women and children. The media was praised as life saviours in this case, because if not for the media coverage, this would’ve remained as yet another normal crime that would’ve been unnoticed by the public at large.
ARE MEDIA TRIALS A BOON OR A BANE?
Although media trials have proven itself to be useful in the process of delivering justice in a lot of times, the number of times it has been a hinderance towards the reinstating of justice is alarming. “Innocent until proven guilty” is the method in which the Indian judiciary is dependant on. This cannot be followed in the cases of media trials, where a person is branded as the guilty one even before the court studies and hears the entire case. Courts are considered to be the supreme most bodies for establishing laws to uphold justice in the society. Interfering in the court’s business and taking law into one’s own hands is considered to be unlawful and is also disrespecting the law enforcing bodies. Media trials cannot be branded as a negative impact on the society all together. The fact that media trials also have its own perks, should also be taken into consideration. So therefore, if the media stays in its own limits and doesn’t cross the line by interfering with the process of reinstating justice and influencing the court’s decisions, Media Trials are absolutely acceptable. But if it publishes fake and improper content, and wrongly influences the public’s minds, which is the predominant situation prevailing now, it is totally unacceptable and should be considered as a contempt of the court.
Media is regarded as one of the most inevitable parts of a democracy with a wide role to play in the shaping of a nation. It is said that Media is the only tool which has the power to make or break a nation. The perception and views of the citizens on how they study a situation is solely in the hands of the Media of that nation. Media has the power to influence thousands of citizens and create a revolution in the society. It has a very crucial responsibility of making sure that the public is aware of the happenings in the nation. So, this responsibility should be realised by them and it is necessary that they act in a more refined manner which will ultimately lead to the progress of this nation. The people trust and expect the media and the news published by them to be the truth. An ideal media should act in such a way that this trust and faith the people have in them is upheld and they do justice towards them by delivering the facts and not fictious contents.
 Ishita Singh and Harsh Bhargava, Hampering Judicial Independence, ACADEMIKE (15/10/2021, 20:38) https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/media-trials-in-india-history/.
ARTICLE BY PRIYA DARSHINI S