While hearing petitions seeking the regulations on the Sushant Singh Rajput case took place, the Bombay High Court criticised the “media trial” that took place, especially criticising Republic TV.
The bench consisted of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni, who extensively questioned Advocate Malvika Trivedi, who represented Republic TV. The bench asked with regards to “ArrestRhea” hashtag the channel ran on Twitter, “Is this part of investigative journalism? Asking public about their opinion on who should be arrested?”
The bench further questioned why the channel was stating that she should be arrested on charges of murder when even the police were investigating whether it was a suicide or homicide.
“If you become the investigator, prosecutor and the judge, what is the use of us? Why are we here”
They accused Republic TV of disregarding the law as well, stating that if the Republic was really interested in unearthing the truth, they should have looked at the Code of Criminal Procedure, under which investigative powers are given to the police. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” the bench stated.
The Republic TV advocate insisted that their reasoning behind this was to bring the news to the public. Trivedi argued that the Republic TV was only highlighting facts that were otherwise not brought on record. “Transparency of fact prime” they said, implying that the court was trying to curb freedom of the press.
But the court caught onto this, stating that the Bench was not suggesting that the media’s “throat be throttled.” headlines should be avoided. While truth should be brought to the public’s notice, The court’s interest was to only see whether the Republic’s reporting violated the Programme Code and is against laid down norms.
Trivedi insisted that the Republic had been following media guidelines and a framework of checks and balances.
But the Court further criticised them for the way Sushant Singh Rajput’s death was reported on. When reporting on suicide, there are guidelines to be followed, and the headlines shouldn’t sensationalise the news. The media has a responsibility to protect the rights of the victim’s family as well as the accused.
Meanwhile, two other suits have also been filed against Arnab Goswami and Republic TV by Hansa Research and a former police officer.
The Republic has responded to these by claiming that this is a plot to “Target Arnab”