Television

Media trials: Bombay HC says 'will have to lay down guidelines'

The observation was made while hearing petitions on the coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput case.

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NEW DELHI: The Bombay high court has said that in light of recent events, it may have to lay down guidelines to check the rash of media trials in the country.

While listening to a tranche of pleas seeking restraining orders against trial by media in the Sushant Singh Rajput case, the division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish S Kulkarni observed that journalists today have lost their neutrality and the media has become "highly polarised."

The court's remarks came on the back of clarifications by advocate Ankit Lohia, counsel for Zee News, that the channel was not guilty of the allegations made by the petitioners and that there was no need for government interference in functioning of channels.

"We are ruled by the rule of law. How do you advocate that people who go around accusing others can find shelter of freedom of press? Journalists back then were responsible and neutral, now the media is polarised. This is not a question of regulation. This is a question of checks and balances. People forget where to draw lines. Do it within lines," responded the chief justice.

The bench informed the parties that through the arguments, they were initiating a discussion so that the government can take suggestions and perhaps come up with a balanced policy to regulate electronic media.

"We won't like to stop the media. There are precedents and we are bound by those precedents. But we are dealing with something that is not in precedents, hence we will have to lay down guidelines," the bench said.

The court also asked the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) why no suo motu action can be initiated for "irresponsible coverage" of criminal sensitive matters and "media trial" in the case.

The court is hearing arguments on whether a statutory mechanism is required to regulate the TV news content. The Union government, National Broadcasting Standards Authority and the news channels which are party to the case told the court that the electronic media has a self-regulatory mechanism and the state must not have any control over their content.

The hearing will continue next week.

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