Sushant singh rajput, Bombay HC
Sushant singh rajput, Bombay HC
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[Breaking] Sushant Singh Rajput case: Bombay HC urges media to show restraint before publishing reports that may hamper probe

The Court added that it would like to have the response of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on record, before it considers other reliefs sought for in two PILs filed in the matter.

Meera Emmanuel

The Bombay High Court today urged media channels to show restraint in reporting on the case concerning the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

A Division Bench of Justices AA Sayed and SP Tavade today passed an order stating that it expects and urges the media to show restraint before reporting anything that would hamper the investigation into the case.

Since none of the media channels was present before the High Court today, the Court said that it is not granting all the prayers sought for by the petitioners.

".... we only urge and expect the said Respondents to exercise restraint in the media reporting pertaining to the investigation of unnatural death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput which would in any manner hamper or prejudice the ongoing investigation which is being carried out by Respondent No.4-CBI after the imprimatur of the Supreme Court vide judgment and order dated 19-08-2020", the Court said.

The Court added that it would like to have the response of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on record before it considers other reliefs sought for in two PILs filed registering protest over media trial being conducted in the case.

The petitions before the Court include those moved by eight former Mumbai Police officers and three activists.

Appearing for the policemen, Senior Advocate Milind Sathe argued that the media reportage on the Sushant Singh Rajput death case is such that there is an attempt to influence a neutral investigation. He added that every piece of reporting is hatred and vilification of Mumbai police.

The coverage of the case in electronic media is almost a parallel investigation, Sathe added. Some channels even called the Mumbai Police as co-conspirators, Sathe said.

Appearing for three activists raising similar concerns, Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat contended that the primary grievance is against media coverage that poses as a direct interference in the administration of justice.

"We are all for the freedom of the press. It is the fourth estate... this country will survive only if there is a vibrant media.. but the media has certain responsibilities, which if transgressed will destroy the administration of justice", Kamat argued.

He went on to point out that media channels even broadcasted photos of Sushant Singh Rajput's corpse from his bedroom. This is totally against journalistic ethics and the guidelines given by the Press Council of India, he added.

"When a witness is interviewed by the CBI - after he comes out, he is hounded by the media and he is asked 'What did you tell the CBI'? Is this the kind of reporting expected from the 4th pillar (media)?", Kamat contended.

He also pointed out that WhatsApp chats to be produced as evidence and other materials have been put in the public domain by the media. Interviews with witnesses have also been published. Kamat argued that such reporting would interfere with the administration of justice.

"What is happening is a direct affront to your Lordships' domain of administration of justice", Kamat said.

Referring to various Supreme Court rulings on the subject of media trial, Kamat pointed out,

"... every effort should be made by the print and electronic media to ensure that distinction between "trial by media" and "informative media" must always be maintained."

Despite the Press Council's advice on how to report on suicide, the media is not bothered, Kamat raised concern.

"What is driving them (media) is not a quest for truth but a quest for more TRP ratings and commercial games.Even a couple of days back, they were showing the dead body, Milord."

While concluding his submissions in the forenoon session, Kamat urged the Court to pass orders so that the media strictly adheres to journalistic and programme codes on ethical reporting, and that they do no publish any material which interferes with the investigation.

"I am not asking to pull down any programmes. I am not asking for a prior restraint order. I am only asking to please adhere to the journalistic code, which they (media) are bound to do. It is an innocuous prayer", Kamat argued.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, however, raised concern that no orders should be passed before hearing the media channels first.

"Such a serious matter, I don't think they (media) would not appear. it has serious implications across the country", ASG Singh said.

Pertinently, no media channel entered appearance before the Court today, a fact that has specifically been noted by the Bench.

In view of the concern, the Bench adjourned the matter once to be heard after the lunch break, while asking that a copy of the PIL to be served on the concerned parties so that they may enter appearance.

However, with no media channels appearing before the Court in the afternoon session as well, the Bench proceeded to issue notice in the matter and adjourn the case to next week.

Read the Order:

Nilesh Navlakha & Anr. v. MIB and ors - September 3 order.pdf
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