Part of the coverage by Republic TV and Times Now in the Sushant Singh Rajput case was “prima facie contemptuous” of the Mumbai Police, the Bombay High Court said today while hearing a plea in the matter. The court said it would not take “any action as of now” but made it clear that media trial during investigation in a case “does impact the investigation”.
The court was hearing a bunch of petitions in the matter — one of them filed by eight former Indian Police Service officers that objected to the negative portrayal of the Mumbai police by a section of the media. Another petition pointed out that a section of the media was running a parallel trial in the case and asked to court to put a stop to it.
The court said a “media trial” violates programme code under the Cable TV Network Regulation Act and asked the electronic media to follow PCI guidelines until new guidelines are framed.
The court had issued another set of strong comments in an earlier hearing, questioning Republic TV if seeking viewers’ opinion on who who should be arrested during an ongoing investigation and infringing on a person’s rights qualified as “investigative journalism”.
“The grievance is regarding #ArrestRhea. Why is this part of your channel news?” said a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni, referring to a hashtag campaign.
“When a case is under investigation and the issue is whether it’s a homicide or a suicide and a channel is saying it is murder, is all this investigative journalism?” the judges asked.