Bombay High Court on Thursday, has asked the media houses to exercise restraint while reporting the investigation in the late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput death case and urged not to hamper the probe.
A division bench of Justice A A Sayed and Justice S P Tavade issued notice to all the respondents over the PIL filed by two parties and stated that meanwhile, the court expected that media channels would practice restraint while reporting on the actor’s death and not hamper the investigation in any manner.
“We only expect and urge the media to exercise restraint in reporting the investigation with respect to the case which would in any manner hamper or prejudice ongoing investigation carried out by CBI as per SC order,” the bench said.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh appearing for government sought time to respond and said that the court could not pass order before hearing the channels and it would have larger implications.
No channels have appeared before the court on Thursday. So the court has listed the matter for further hearing on September 10, waiting for replies from representatives of TV channels and CBI to decide the relief sought by petitioners accordingly.
The first PIL has been filed by eight retired senior police officers of Maharashtra including former DGPs P S Pasricha, K Subramaniam, D Sivanandan, Sanjeev Dayal and Satish Chandra Mathur; former Mumbai Police commissioners Mahesh N Singh and Dhananjay N Jadhav as well as former Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief K P Raghuvanshi.
The eight petitioners rallied together on behalf of Mumbai police and filed a PIL through Crawford Bayley & Company, represented by senior counsel Milind Sathe and advocate Chetan Kapadia seeking actions against “unfair, malicious and false media campaign”.
“A section of television channels was “trying to influence the course of investigation” into the case by central agencies “through their biased reporting and false propaganda”. “This has created an air of suspicion in the minds of the general public as to the facts of the case under investigation and also about the Mumbai Police, health services and other support services of the state,” said the plea.
The plea also pointed out, “Anchors of some TV channels have been virtually running a vituperative 24×7 campaign against Mumbai Police and its commissioner, DCP of the zone and other officers, by attacking them by name in the most unbecoming manner.”
The petitioners have sought directions to the authorities to issue guidelines for all the media houses to restrain from publishing and circulating derogatory and scandalous content to malign the image of Mumbai police.
Advocate Milind Sathe added, “Such piece of reporting (amounts to) hatred and vilification of Mumbai Police. The coverage in electronic media is a parallel investigation and Mumbai Police is (being) called co-conspirators by some channels. The manner in which reporting is taking place, they’ve virtually taken over the investigation.”
The respondents in the first PIL include union government, Press Council of India, News Broadcasters’ Association, News Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Maharashtra government
The second PIL was filed by filmmaker and activist Nilesh Navlakha, and two others including Mahibub D Shaikh and Subhash Chander Chaba.
Senior counsel Devadatt Kamat and advocate Rajesh Inamdar appearing for the three alleged that the nature of reporting by TV channels was of sensationalism and is impacting the ongoing CBI probe.
The respondents to the petition include union government, Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association, CBI, Maharashtra government, India Today Group, Times now, Republic TV, NDTV Ltd, News 18, and Zee News.
“We are all for the freedom of 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. The channels even broadcast photos of Sushant Singh Rajput’s corpse from his bedroom. This is totally against journalistic ethics and codes pertaining to media reporting issued by the Centre,” said Kamat.
The second petition sought that the guidelines as per Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 must be followed properly.