MEDIA TRIAL AND CONSTITUTION

One of the most inevitable as well as ineluctable part of a democratic society is media. No democracy can survive without media as media is the voice of the people and democracy is nothing but a government run by the people. At the highest level we always speak that India is world’s largest democracy; India is the supreme promoter and campaigner of democracy but when we dig and dig and go to the grass root level we find that there exists some form of an authoritarianism which oppresses people and denies them their basic rights. We always come across reports about corruption and exploitation of the common man in the hands of the government officials and here media plays a very vital and imperative role in bringing up these things to the limelight and hence works in strengthening our democracy as well as in instilling democratic values deep into the society. Many scams, many human rights violation cases and many such incidents came into exposure just because of the media. Media is indeed the fourth pillar of democracy. Without a free media no democracy can survive. Media to democracy is exactly what blood sugar level is to human body, the context of such type of comparison is that when blood sugar level is within the optimum amounts then the body functions nicely but when it lowers it creates a problem and when it rises way higher than the optimum limits it creates havoc, similarly media when does its actual job it leads to a healthy democratic society but when its presence decreases it leads to authoritarianism and when its presence increases it leads to rise in toxicity in the society by interfering in every possible way with each and every system and therefore the term ‘media trial’ is nothing but diabetes mellitus for the society.

In last quarter or so we are facing this humongous issue of COVID-19 and the words associated with it such as quarantine and lockdown must have been spoken like millions of times but since the month of May, ‘media trial’ might would be spoken or must have been talked about like billion of times. The death of a movie star showed the dark side of media; the devil side of media. In last fifteen years there have been many instances where media trials changed the outcome of a case, some in a good manner where the innocent got saved from getting punished and in some exactly the opposite happened and we can say that media trial has always been there but this time while media was busy in conducting trials, people actually saw the darker side of media which doesn’t only conduct a trial on live television but also can pressurize a judge resulting him/her to think over their verdict. The article19 of the constitution of India gives us the right of freedom and under article 19(1), it guarantees us right to freedom of expression but nowadays this freedom of expression is being exploited by some media houses and hence are conducting trials in the so called ‘media court’ where the journalists or anchors are assuming themselves as the judge and are giving their verdict on some highly sensitive cases. The current case of the death of actor is a clear cut example of toxic media trials where media is assassinating most of the characters associated with the actor. Some media houses, in a crystal clear manner are crossing the limits and are conducting live media trials and are with full freedom assassinating characters of whomever they want to. Basically majority of media houses are forgetting their roles and are thinking or assuming themselves to be the court of law. The constitution gives the accused the right to have a free trial as similar to that of the victim. The right to fair trial is an absolute and unrestrained right that is provided to any individual and Article 14[1], Article 19[2], Article 21[3] and Article 22[4] of the Constitution of India deal with it. Moreover any media reports or publications which gatecrashes, intrudes or obstructs or tends to obstruct any proceedings regarding an ongoing case in the court then it can be termed as contempt of court under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. In many cases and the one in particular which comes into mind is the famous murder case of a girl in 2013 where media had already declared who was guilty and who was not even before the beginning of the actual trial and many such cases are out there which can be used as examples to show that how media trials interferes the court proceedings and its verdict and hence creating confusion and at the same time misleading the public which might result in serious consequences and hence it is entitled as contempt of court. Media trials not only deviate the actual case but it also creates an environment full of stress for the individuals associated with it such as the lawyers, police, judges, the accused and the victim. Lawyers are fearing to take up cases where media and public has already adjudged certain individuals as guilty, hence clearly leading towards violation of the rights of the accused and moreover their right to have a quality legal practitioner. Media nowadays has evolved its role from being the information provider to ‘their views provider’. The phrase ‘no news only views’ is so much relevant and apropos to describe the role of media in today’s world. Media nowadays has become a business as well as the air of competition that prevails between different media houses to be the number one news channel is making the content more worthless, filthy as well as contemptible. The battle to bag the highest TRP or Television Rating Point, popularity and viewership are the only things that is roaming inside the heads of media houses as it seems. The power of media in a country like ours is enormous and humongous and it has the power to influence the opinions of millions and millions of people; it’s power is so great that it can even change the outcome of elections, can change or uplift people’s standard of living and can bring out the huge corruption scams which flows in veins and arteries of bureaucrats, government officials and business groups but when the media is busy only in running its deceptive, exasperating and quasi-trials all other important topics are getting lost deep into the woods. This is not only masking the crucial issues but also providing space and free environment for them to build up. Once Amit Abraham[5] told that, “today a story is not told it’s sold” and we can’t agree more to this.

Media has to introspect and think over the roles that they are meant to play. In today’s world where fake news has emerged as one of the biggest enemy of mankind and in a country like ours where fake news has already wreaked havoc in many instances media trials are also coming under the same category and are also resulting in same outcomes. Once Benjamin Franklin[6] said that “whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech” but here we can see that media is not getting destroyed by the regime rather it’s destroying itself. Media is on its way of self destructing itself as it seems. Media has to change itself and the best way of changing is by practicing professionalism over sensationalism, by being responsible over acting amateur. There was a time when journalists used to visit the most inaccessible places and show us the plight faced by people of that very area, there was a time when media used to expose huge scams and violation of human rights in different parts of the country. Media has to come out of its comfort zone and has to actually act like the fourth pillar of democracy. Otherwise the days are not far away where commissions and different agencies will be made to look after the content shown and published by different media houses as the amount of problems the issue of fake news and media trials is causing certainly days are not far where their content will be censored and then no one can shout over the regime on the basis of Article 19 of the Constitution that their right to freedom of press has been violated and it’s a black day for Indian democracy and all such things as the amount of problem that’s been created by the media houses can be brought down easily by censoring them and to avoid to get into such circumstances media houses have to act mature and do their part in strengthening democracy in our country.

WRITTEN BY:-

SNEHA MISHRA, LAW STUDENT, NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, ODISHA


[1] Under article 14, the state shall not deny to any person equality before laws within the territory of India on any grounds.

[2] Article 19 gives the right to freedom of speech and protects certain rights with reference to it.

[3] Article 21 ensures that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

[4] Article 22 ensures protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.

[5] Amit Abraham is an Indian academician, author, scholar and psychologist who has worked as Deputy Vice Chancellor at the Mount Zion International University of Rwanda.

[6] Benjamin Franklin was an American polymath and one of the founding fathers of the United States of America.

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