Author: Surbhi Ranjan, Student at Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Legal Studies, Banasthali Vidyapith, Rajasthan.
Trial can be defined as a formal review of evidences by a judge, usually before a jury, for the purpose of determining guilt in criminal or civil cases. Or else can be defined as a judicial review and assessment of facts and legal issues that arise between parties to a civil or criminal action.
Media Trial can be defined as, where media is represented in a judge’s position, and has begun publicly conducting parallel trials that are beyond procedural restrictions.
For example- The thirst for sensational news compels media to start trials on the basis of their own version of facts and evidences. The media may include TV channels, Newspapers, Daily Journals, Social Media, Websites, etc.
Media Trial is not legal anywhere. No law has given the authority to media trial for the trial of a case.
There used to be Media Trial earlier also. But today the version of Media Trials is seen is very different from earlier one. When a case is filed, even before the court takes the case, Media makes it breaking news and from there the discussions start what should be the judgement. Not what would be or is the judgment but what should be the judgement. It is like they decide the judgement on their own before the actual trial starts before the court. The outcome is declared even the punishment is declared.
Media impacts society and it do influence the Judge when he chooses a case. As per Justice A K Sikri, Today Judging is under pressure. While online media has been a guard, he said there has likewise been a danger to basic freedoms in light of the fact that there is a genuine threat of private and public players being looked after.
TRIAL BY MEDIA
“When Justice A K Sikri conveyed a discourse on “Freedom of press in the digital age” at the first Law Association For Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA) gathering held in New Delhi on Feb 10. He said the freedom of press is changing the worldview of civil and human rights and the current example of media preliminaries is an illustration of it.
“It is becoming very alarming but we are in the era of paid and fake news because of the digital era. Stories are created…and somebody puts it on any digital mode and these, in few hours time, become viral. The reach is a billion people,” he said.”
These words of him is relatable to present scenario as the proliferation of 24/7 news outlets and newspapers, the appetite for breaking news has reached new heights, putting the courts under media scrutiny too. The media is now represented in a judge’s position, and has begun publicly conducting parallel trials that are beyond procedural restrictions. Media trial revolves around the slogan ‘feed what concerns the public’ rather than ‘what is in the public interest.’ The word ‘trial-by-media’ defines the effect of television and newspaper reporting on a person’s image by generating a wide-ranging presumption of guilt independent of any court decision.
“Justice should not only be done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done” But it seems to be impossible where media is conducting a separate inquiry, building up a public opinion against the accused even before the court becomes aware of the case. In all case that inevitably happens. In this way, it biases the jury and often even the judges and as a result the accused is believed to be guilty and is stripped of all his rights and freedom. Media has becomes a ‘public court’ (Janta Adalat) has started to intervene in the case.
FREEDOM OF PRESS
Press is considered a cornerstone of democracy. Press has broad ranging social positions. Media plays a crucial role in influencing society’s perception, and is able to shift the entire point of view from which people experience various events. Media is the public eye, ear, and mouth. It has social influence and tremendous effect on men and it also has tremendous obligations to fulfill. Media freedom is people’s rights, because they should be told about public matters.
Media is unreasonably utilizing the freedom of speech and expression. There have been a few occurrences in which media have been accused of directing the accused’ preliminary and passing the ‘decision’ even under the watchful eye of the court passes its judgment, Media preliminary should be led without restricting the rights of the accused to a fair trial under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Yet, the mentality of the media is that “Everything is fair for love, war and breaking news.”
Freedom of the press Article 19 of the International Agreement on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, embodies the right to freedom of expression, i.e. ‘Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference’ and ‘freedom to search, receive and convey knowledge and ideas of all kinds, irrespective of borders, either orally, in writing or in print, in the medium of art or by any other means. While in India, in contrast to the United States of America, opportunity of the press is certainly not an independently ensured right, the Supreme Court of India has perceived opportunity of the press under the umbrella of freedom of speech and expression, as provided for in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
There are times when News channel has been seen pronouncing the accused person liable and discussing the punishment for the indicted, while there is yet to be a solitary hearing out in the open court for the case. Media is blamed for sensationalizing the issue and for the most part contacts prominent cases as in Jessica Lal murder case and the Ice Cream Parlour Case. Media is a broad communications forum that activates the majority rapidly and frequently even negatively affects the way that proceeds. Bargaining and breaking the “Presumption of innocence unless proven guilty” and “Guilty beyond reasonable doubt” norms. Disregard the differentiation among ‘Convict’ and ‘Accused’ words.
PROBLEMS DUE TO MEDIA TRIAL
Sometimes, due to immense pressure created by the media, investigative team and police to safeguard themselves from the accusation of media has to come up with hypothetical story like it happened it Aarushi Talwar Murder Case, where police and CBI team claimed that deceased father killed his daughter as she came to know about his extra marital affair.
You and me cannot think of the difficulty faced by the innocents during media trial. As there is a huge pressure from media, public, relatives and from investigating teams also. Sometimes the accused in terms of saving his family from the anger of public accept the false allegation. This not only puts the innocent behind the bars but also give the courage to the real culprit to do the act again.
There are many things which get ugly during trial by media. The reputation of the accused is completely gone. It’s not only about the reputation, it’s about his family, while getting trp’s media cross very limit. By chance the court held the accused guilty then the life of other’s family members of accused is also affected by this. So, according to me there should be a line that media should draw. That what is to be shown and what is not.
There are many cases where trial by media was at next level. Some of them were Delhi eve-teasing case, Badaun Rape Case, Jessica Lal Murder Case, Aarushi Talwar Double Murder Case, Bijal Joshi Rape Case.
In Delhi eve-teasing case, a girl Jasleen Kaur played woman card and media completely supported her. The accused lost his job and he had to face immense hatred from public. Later on when investigation took place, witnesses confirmed that the accused was actually innocent.
CONSEQUENCES OF MEDIA TRIAL
What about the situations in which media is wrong? No more news on those. Free jury is not a blessing for the convicted, it is the trust in the justice system’s integrity. Media fries the lawyer who has chosen to prosecute much-known cases of accused Kasab and Delhi Rape, in breach of the principle of fair jury. Media Trial is also a way to pressurize the lawyers for not taking the cases of whom, the public has assumed to be the accused and try harder that the accused may go without defense which clearly violates the principle of natural justice “Audi Alteram Partem” which means no one should be condemned unheard. This option to fair hearing consist of a few rights, one of them is Right to present the case. In any case, when media put misleading indictment on legal advisors that they are saving some unacceptable people, there may be a likelihood that because of the pressure from media and public the legal counselor may venture back which would prompt the infringement of option to introduce the case, as the blamed can’t communicate his perspective in court, he needs an attorney for that. The Apex Court in Ashok Kumar Sonkar v. Union of India, held that there cannot be any doubt whatsoever that all the audi alteram partem is one of the basic pillars of natural justice which means no one should be condemned unheard. However, whenever possible the principles of natural justice should be followed. These principles cannot be put in any straitjacket formula. The said principles may not be applied in a given case unless a prejudice is shown. It is not necessary where it would be a futile exercise.
SOCIAL MEDIA TRIALS
In this era of digitalization, where everyone is talking about DIGITAL INDIA, Social Media has a different place in our society. It is an unseparable part of anyone’s life. People are well connected to social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp etc. This connection of people with Social Platforms has its own advantages and disadvantages.
The significant preferred position of this stage is that it offers chance to communicate their thoughts and perspectives openly and intensely. As we probably are aware that there is a slight contrast among right and wrong, So there is a slight distinction between utilizing the opportunity and abusing the opportunity. It’s acceptable when we utilize this opportunity however sadly a few people in our general public is there who utilize this for Name, Fame, Money or for Revenge.
One of the latest case is where a girl blamed a guy that he raped her. She had posted this accusation on her social media account. Due which guy was made rapist by the public, he started getting threat calls and messages all over. He was judged as a rapist before the court could held him guilty, public held him guilty. Due to pressure from society he committed suicide. A teenager committed suicide. What happened was it right?
On the other hand, Not all the times media is wrong but even if media goes wrong for once it can ruin the entire life of an innocent. So media should be careful of to what level they are upto. In order to get speedy justice people, media start putting allegation on the suspect who might be innocent. Delivering Justice is a time taking process but one should have patience. As it’s also said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
 By Lord Chief Justice Hewart; source: https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/lifestyle/society/justice-must-be-seen-to-be-done/3405664-5438006-urjqto/index.html
 (2007) 4 SCC 54 : [2007 (3) SLR 501 (SC)]