MEDIA TRIALS - AN EVIL TO THE INDIAN JUDICIARY
The media acts as fourth and one of the most important pillars of our country, including the legislative, executive and Judiciary.It plays an essential role in framing the opinions of a large strata of people, and thus at times this power is utilised to promote the negative propagandas against certain individuals of the society. Any right which is left unchecked without any restrictions, becomes prone to certain kinds of violation, and the same could be observed in the case of the violation of the right to speech and expression by the media houses.
Trial by media could be interpreted as the tarnishing of image of any individual involved in the violation of any legal principle, without any prior proceedings being conducted by the Judiciary. In simple words, media trials, is the humiliation of the character of any person who is involved in any case, even before any investigation has been conducted by our legal system1. Through these trials, the right to privacy of the citizens provided under Article 21 of Indian Constitution, is very often infringed. The media houses via these trials, portrays it's viewers as a "judge", so that they could frame their own agendas over the issues, without even knowing the actual facts and circumstances. These trials, often impact the psychological and mental well being of the convict as well as their families, and completely ruins their societal image, even before the actual verdict is pronounced.
THE CATASTROPHIC EFFECTS OF MEDIA TRIALS OVER JUDICIARY
The Article 21 of our Indian Constitution, ensures the "right to fair trial". It signifies, that any of the accused or victim must be subjected to proper and legal trial, without any influence of the external factors2. The Indian Judiciary, propagates the idea of "presumption of innocence", which signifies innocence of any individual until proven guilty. However, the media houses who have a basic task of distributing the information among the citizens, begins to frame the agendas among its viewers, regarding right and wrong. Especially, after the introduction of Television Rating Points (TRP's), this dissemination of fake agendas have become more and more prevalent. Every media house, wants to produce the spiciest news and facts among it's viewers in order to win this rat run of TRP's.
The Press Council of India, has time to time instructed the media houses to not to give unreasonable coverage to the victims, accused or witnesses before any prior trials. This is done, mainly to ensure that none of the parties, witnesses or judicial officers involved gets influenced by any fake information. However, no matter how much prevention is taken, the judges and the police are the common people like any of us, who watch the news and others media platforms to get the daily updates. And therefore, the chances of getting influenced by this fake propaganda, becomes even larger due to all these media platforms3. Even if the judges, tries to separate themselves from such hype of media coverage, it's just impossible for them to become completely free from such influence by the media, due to the widespread tentacles of internet and online platforms.
THE UNPROVEN HYPE OF RHEA CHAKRABORTY'S INVOLVEMENT IN SUSHANT SINGH RAJPUT'S CASE
In the previous year, Rhea Chakraborty who is a famous bollywood actress, was arrested by the NCB, after her involvement was observed in providing drugs to her deceased boyfriend Sushant Singh Rajput. Rhea, was accused of being a part of a huge drug trafficking nexus, and was even portrayed as an agent of this nexus who was involved in supplying drugs to her various co-stars4.
By the time NCB started its probe over the matter, Rhea's image had already been tarnished by the media houses. She became a victim of an unprecedented hate campaign, and was even declared a witch who took away the life of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Her privacy, was completely infringed of by displaying her personal whatsapp chats with other individuals on the national television. Even her family members were heavily targeted, they have to restrict themselves inside the four walls of their houses for more than 3-4 months. She was even declared as a lady who performed "black magic" over Sushant Singh Rajput, and captivated him inside his own premises. She was addressed with the terms such as - gold digger, murderer, witch and what not, even before when she was not subjected to any trial by the court.
Ultimately, the truth came out, and the Bombay High court while providing bail to Rhea Chakraborty on the 7th October, 2020, stated that she was not involved in any kind of drug syndicate. It was nowhere found by the court that she had allegedly supplied any drug which was procured by her to some other individual in the name of money.
THE TARNISHING OF ARYAN KHAN'S IMAGE VIA MEDIA TRIALS
In the year 2022, Aryan Khan, son of the bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan was sacked by the officers of NCB, during a raid in a private cruise ship. Aryan, faced a ruthless media trial, and was furnished as a bad inspiration to the Indian youth5.
It was observed in the later stages of trial by the court that Aryan Khan was neither subjected to any prior blood test to signify that he consumed any kind of drugs, rather he was just present there at the location where such drugs were being consumed and disseminated among the people6. Also, he was arrested on the basis of some whatsapp chats between him and his friend, and it was the only solid ground to be detained by the NCB, provided to the court.
However, irrespective of these legal proceedings, Aryan Khan's psychological well7 being was completely thrashed out by portraying him as a daily news item, whose name was dragged to justify, that how the future of the Indian youth is getting ruined by such acts of starkids. Though, at the end the court found no involvement of Aryan Khan under such case, and he was released on bail.
It must be understood by all the individuals of the country, and especially the media houses that - with great power, comes great responsibility. The media is a weapon by which the people could be enlightened of the real facts and issues of our society. This is a profession under which one wrongful information, could completely destroy the life of any individual or community. No matter, how much the Judiciary tries to separate itself from media, but somewhere it is getting impacted to a large extent by it. Therefore, Judiciary must do what they are expected to work for i.e., to ensure justice in the society. And ultimately, media must work, what they are meant for i.e., dissemination of information. This balance must always be carried forward co parallely, so that no innocent could be subjected to any hardships thereupon.
1. Shoaib, A., 2022. Media Trials and their Impact on the Judicial System - Socio Legal Corp. [online] Socio Legal Corp. Available at: [https://www.sociolegalcorp.com/commentary/media-trials-and-their-impact-on-the-judicial-system/] [Accessed 28 June 2023].
2. Bhongale, J., 2022. Media Trial: Role of Media under Indian Constitution. SSRN.
3. Mondaq.com. 2022. Supreme Court Of India On Trial By Media - Trials & Appeals & Compensation - India. [online] Available at: [https://www.mondaq.com/india/trials-appeals-compensation/1006762/supreme-court-of-india-on-trial-by-media] [Accessed 28 June 2023].
4. Sen, S., 2022. Distasteful Media Trial Of Rhea Chakraborty. [online] Thelogicalindian.com. Available at: [https://thelogicalindian.com/humaninterest/rhea-chakraborty-media-trial-23559] [Accessed 28 June 2023].
5. Basu, D., 2022. MEDIA TRIAL: EMPHASIS ON ARYAN KHAN CASE. [online] The AmikusQriae. Available at: [https://theamikusqriae.com/media-trial-emphasis-on-aryan-khan-case/] [Accessed 28 June 2023].
6. Pankaj, T., 2022. Aryan Khan's case the latest in dangerous trend of unfounded conspiracy angles and blatant media trials. [online] The Leaflet. Available at: [https://theleaflet.in/aryan-khans-case-the-latest-in-dangerous-trend-of-unfounded-conspiracy-angles-and-blatant-media-trials/] [Accessed 28 June 2023].
7. Kaushik, S., 2022. Media trial : an analysis - iPleaders. [online] iPleaders. Available at: [https://blog.ipleaders.in/media-trial-analysis/#References] [Accessed 28 June 2023].
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