The Bombay high court on Friday asked Maharashtra government to issue a circular restraining the police from disclosing the identity and the photograph of accused as well as information gathered during investigations to the media.
The order was given by Justices Abhay Oka and AS Chandurkar on a PIL filed by advocate Rahul Thakur seeking a restraint on “trial by the media” on the ground that it infringes upon the right of the accused to have a fair trial.
The judges asked the government to consider issuing a circular which imposes restrictions on the police from undertaking media briefings or disclosing information gathered during the investigation.
“The quality of the investigation will suffer if the case is constantly under the media trial. Even the victim and witnesses may be scared, which could adversely affect the investigation,” remarked justice Oka.
The court emphasised the police should refrain from disclosing the identity and the photograph of the accused. “After the charge sheet is filed, all the details are in the open. Till then, the police should not disclose,” remarked justice Oka.
Government pleader Sandeep Shinde informed the court that the central government has already issued a circular which prohibits publishing the photographs. Thakur’s PIL contended ‘overzealous sections of the media’ has a tendency to infringe upon the fundamental rights of citizens like privacy, fair trial and dignity.
He objected to the parading of accused arrested by the police before media, using gory pictures and revealing the names of accused and their relatives. The petitioner said this leads to their estrangement from society and attaches a stigma to their identity.
The PIL cites an example of a teacher who was victimized by a sting operation of a TV news channel and irreparably defamed. Thakur also said the death of 16-year-old Adnan Patrawala from Andheri could have been averted if the screening of media content was in place.
The PIL also opposes the media portraying accused as convicts even before their trial. Citing Supreme Court judgments, Thakur said the right to freedom of speech is not absolute but it is subject to certain restrictions that the state can impose to curtail some liberties granted to the media.