Even an undertrial ought to be treated with human dignity, the Supreme Court remarked on Friday in the context of the media trial against the man accused in the Air India urination case.
A Bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna made the remark while hearing a batch of petitions seeking action against rising incidents of hate speech.
Discussing the conduct of television channels and the role of anchors in such cases, Justice Joseph said,
"Regarding the Air India incident...look at the names which the man was called on TV...he is an undertrial. You have to treat a person with human dignity."
The judge opined that the channels were driven by financial considerations in such issues.
"It is all about the money. When you claim freedom of speech and expression, you must act like you deserve it. Otherwise what dignity is left for us?"
The accused, Shankar Mishra was arrested by the Delhi Police in Bengaluru last Friday night for allegedly urinating on a 70-year-old woman while in an inebriated condition on board an Air India flight in November.
The incident came to light after the woman's letter to the Tata Group chairperson was made public via the media.
Mishra, who worked at Wells Fargo, was let go from his job after the company said that the allegations against him were "deeply disturbing".
A statement was put out by Mishra's lawyers stating that he had paid an agreed compensation amount to the woman on November 28. However, almost a month later, on December 19, the money was returned to him by the woman's daughter.
On January 8, a court had refused to send Mishra to police custody but remanded him to 14 days of judicial custody.
The court had then said that the mere fact that there is public pressure should not sway the investigation in the case. A Delhi court on Wednesday denied bail to Mishra in the matter.
Counsel for the accused had highlighted that Mishra had not made attempts to evade the inquiry process initiated by Air India in the matter while questioning the need for the issuance of a non-bailable warrant (NBW) in the case.
It was contended that Mishra's actions, while obscene, were not intended to sexually harass the victim.
The media coverage of the case, especially by television news channels, has been day-to-day ever since details emerged, the lawyer pointed out.