MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Thursday issued notice on
Public interest litigation
filed by eight former top cops against ‘unfair media vilification of Mumbai police’ and in a brief order said it expects media to show restraint in reporting so as not to influence and effect investigation in the death of
Sushant Singh Rajput
The PIL is filed by former Mumbai police chiefs M N Singh, 77, DN Jadhav, 72, ex Director general of police PS Pasricha, 72, K Subramanyam,
Sivanandan, 69, Sanjeev Dayal, 65, SC Mathur, 62 and Krish Pal Raghuvanshi, 65.
They said the PIL is filed due to “unfair, malicious and false media campaign’’ and because “a section of TV channels has been trying to influence the course of investigation…through false propaganda.’’
A bench of Justices Amjad Sayed and S P Tavade observed some of the submissions made by their counsel Milind Sathe that the coverage was like a ‘media trial’ prejudicial to the investigation and posted the matter next for hearing on September 10.
A batch of eight former senior IPS officers from Mumbai police force jointly filed the PIL. They raised concerns over “unfair media campaign against Mumbai police in the matter of death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’’ which “appears to falsely tarnish the good name of Mumbai police by making derogatory, irresponsible, unethical, unfair, as well as inaccurate news reporting.’’
Senior counsel Sathe said sections of electronic media are virtually running a media trial and tarnishing the image of Mumbai police. He said that in the Supreme Court judgment transferring probe to CBI there is no stigma on Mumbai police. He questioned the lack of implementation by television journalists of their own self-regulatory bodies’ code of ethics in standards of reporting. He cited and invoked a British era law—the Police incitement to disaffection Act of 1922. He also said while Press Council of India had issued a statement last month and expressed its distress, the electronic media is self-regulated by two bodies which thus take on a public character.
The PIL has sought directions from the HC to ensure that “guidelines’’ are put in place for media to make sure they “refrain from publishing and circulating any false, derogatory and scandalous comments, social media posts, news stories, etc. which may jeopardize the reputation of the Police and may cause the public to lose faith in the system and in Police administration or hinder the cause of administration of justice.’’
The PIL sought directions against “conducting a ‘Media Trial’ of any case…’’ The PIL cited the August 19 order of the Supreme Court which after perusing the material submitted by Mumbai police in a sealed cover had said the police “may not be faulted on the basis of material available.’’
“Mumbai Police is one of the oldest police forces of India and it has always enjoyed very high reputation for professional competence and public service. Any malicious and irresponsible attempt to run it down is, therefore, not in public interest,’’ said the PIL.
It said, “Whilst the Petitioners fully endorse necessity of freedom of press and speech and expression as a crucial and important ingredient of democracy and rule of law, the petitioners note this trend in media reporting, specially TV Channels with grave concern and feel that it needs to be checked through a suitable directive of this Court and by issuance of comprehensive guidelines in this behalf and particularly in respect of reporting of crime and criminal investigation and reporting does not turn into media trial and it becoming prosecutor, jury and judge.’’
For the Centre, additional solicitor general Anil Singh sought time since he said he had just been informed about the PIL.
The bench also heard counsel Devdutta Kamat with advocate
Inamdar for another PIL on the same issue. That PIL filed earlier by two business persons from Maharashtra and a pensioner from Haryana as social activists-- Nilesh Navlakha, Mahibub D Shaikh and
Chaba-- stated that the nature of reporting by TV channels was that of “sensationalism” and adversely impacting the ongoing
Central Bureau of Investigation
(CBI) probe in the case.
“In various debates and discussions held by the several prominent news-channels/electronic media in particular it can be seen that the news anchors/reporters are examining and cross-examining all the proposed witnesses and exposing the probable evidence to the public which can only be examined by the investigating agency or by the competent courts during the course of trial. Hence urgent directions are required to postpone such media trials in order to complete fair investigation and trials in court of law,’’ said the PIL.