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'Act before entire system breaks down': Bombay HC on Media Trial

The court added that when the media crosses the 'Lakshman rekha' then it is for the Parliament to step in

Friday October 16, 2020 7:48 PM, IANS

Bombay HC on Media Trial

Mumbai: Expressing concerns over how 'self-regulation' has failed in curbing "media-trials", the Bombay High Court on Friday sought to know if there is a mechanism to check it as "the times have changed".

Hearing a batch of PILs seeking to regulate the media against the backdrop of the 'media-trial' in the coverage of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death, the court asked the union government if there is any mechanism to check the content broadcast by television channels before the so-called "damage is done".

"For the print, there is the Press Council...for films there is the Censor Board...what about a similar statutory body for the electronic media?" a division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G. S. Kulkarni said.

Appearing on behalf of the government, Assistant Solicitor-General of India, Anil Singh said that courts have in the past ruled for 'self-regulation' by the media rather than external regulations.

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'Times have changed'

The court said the situation before it is different from what prevailed earlier when the precedents were passed... "the times have changed...This is the most misused freedom now".

The court observed that there should be something for the media as "everyone seems to have an unfettered licence to say whatever they want to".

Expressing concern, the court warned that if something is not done, there is such a hue and cry, and the "entire system will break down".

"Time for Parliament to step in"

The court added that when the media crosses the 'Lakshman rekha' then it is for the Parliament to step in, not the court, but "you do not seem to be in a mood to ruffle the feathers with respect to the electronic media".

Saying it was concerned with the efficiency of the existing mechanism of regulation regarding news channels, it asked the media to keep in mind that a person's reputation is "not tarnished unduly" while its fundamental right to freedom cannot be used to infringe upon the rights of others.

Senior Council Arvind Datar, who represented the National Broadcasters Association (NBA), informed the court that it had imposed fines on several TV channels for objectionable reportage on Sushant's death case.

The PILs include one filed by several former top IPS officers from Maharashtra and others by activists questioning the 'media-trial' by some television channels.


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