On Thursday, the Bombay High Court sought the Union government to clarify whether ‘excessive’ reportage by the press on an ongoing investigation amounted to interference in the administration of justice under Section 2(c) the Contempt of Courts Act.
The bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice G S Kulkarni remarked “We would like the media not to cross boundaries,” while hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigations that sought regulation of ‘media trial’ in the context of reporting of the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.
“If there is excessive reporting, that can put an accused on guard, and he may resort to destroying evidence or absconding. Or if that person is actually innocent, the excessive media reporting can damage his reputation,” said the court.
“If the person is actually innocent, the excessive media reporting can damage his reputation. If media identifies that a person is a very vital witness, he could be won over, threatened, or he could be even physically harmed so that he does not give evidence,” the CJI continued. “Think of a police officer. Can anyone be guaranteed that he will not be influenced? He may be following a particular track, which could be the right track. Media says no no this must be the track. He loses track and rounds up innocent,” he added while citing the possibility of the press influencing an investigating officer.
“Is there any law which says that whatever an investigation agency collected as evidence should be laid before the public? Where is the obligation for the investigating officer to disclose evidence?” asked the bench while adding “How does the post-mortem report come to the media unless of course it is disclosed? Should we lay down guidelines on these aspects?
The HC also said if the press had access to information that could aid a probe, then it should give such information to police under Section 38 of the Criminal Procedure Code.