The term "trial by media
," which became popular in the late 20th and early
21st centuries, refers to how television and newspaper coverage affects a
person's reputation by spreading ideas of guilt or innocence before or after a
court of law judgement. In recent years, there have been several cases when the
media has tried an accused person and rendered a verdict before the court
The Supreme Court reaffirmed that the court and the media are distinct
organizations with distinct domains of influence and that their roles do not
cross. One cannot and should not utilize the other to carry out their respective
What is meant by media trial?
When multiple newspapers, journals, television channels, and social media
websites interpret facts from a specific case and present them to the wider
public, this is known as a media trial.
In many situations in India, before the judgement of the Indian judiciary, the
media outlets construct an accused in such a way that the general public
believes he is the person guilty of such actions.
Although media trials are not illegal in India, they do have an impact on the
public's perceptions as well as that of judges and attorneys.
Article 19 of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of expression to all
Despite the fact that the term "media trial" is not defined anywhere. However,
under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, the media is allowed this authority
Media Trial's Constitutionality In India
Freedom Of The Press:
Press freedom is critical to the survival of democracy, which is why the press
is regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy. Despite the fact that the press
is expected to work as an informant between government organs and the people,
the main purpose of the press is to convey information to the masses.
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966
declares that "everyone should have the right to have opinions without
interference" and the "freedom to seek, receive, and transmit information and
ideas of all sorts, independent of frontiers, either verbally, in writing or in
print, in the form of art, or by any other means of his choice."
Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution provides the right to free speech and
expression as a fundamental right (a). Unlike in the United States, freedom of
the press is not explicitly addressed, yet the Supreme Court of India has
acknowledged that freedom of the press falls within the scope of freedom of
speech and expression.
- The Supreme Court stated in Anukul Chandra Pradhan v. Union of India
"no occasion should arise for the impression that the publicity attached to
these matters (the hawala transactions) has tended to dilute the emphasis on
the essentials of a fair trial and the basic principles of jurisprudence,
including the accused's presumption of innocence unless found guilty at the
end of the trial."
- The Supreme Court stated in LIC v. Manubbai Shah that freedom of
speech and expression must be liberally defined to involve the ability to
distribute one's opinions orally, in writing, or through audiovisual media.
This includes the freedom to express oneself through paper or other media.
According to the Supreme Court, "freedom to voice one's views is the
lifeline of any democratic institution, and any attempt to choke, suffocate,
or gag this right would sound the death knell for democracy and bring in
authoritarianism or tyranny."
- A trial by press has a risky position because the judge must not only
exercise his or her usual due diligence by hearing the case, reviewing the
evidence, and simply relying on that evidence without biasness, but also
must shield themselves from media attention and avoid being persuaded by the
Under these conditions, it is very challenging for the judge or judges to
render an accurate judgement. Additionally, they must ensure that the
public's pressure does not result in an injustice being committed. They are
referred to as the "opposite of the rule of law.
Freedom Of Speech And Expression v/s Fair Trial
We have seen numerous instances where the media has overstepped its boundaries
by interfering with judicial functions in a media trial by publishing
information that could s change public opinion and court proceedings.
Additionally, a media trial puts tremendous pressure on the judiciary to act in
accordance with public opinion, which can sometimes prevent a fair trial because
the lines between "innocent until proven guilty" and "guilty until proven
innocent" are blurred. In addition, the courts are pressured by the public and
media for a speedy verdict, which delays the process. In addition, the media
frequently overlooks the fact that the law is guided by senses, by considering
the available data, and not by feelings.
Sections 14, 20, 21, and 22 of the Indian Constitution declare the right to a
fair trial to be a basic right. Article 21 of the Constitution should be
interpreted in combination with article 14 since the right is an unalienable
right. The only limitations on the freedom of speech and expression, on the
other hand, are those related to "interests of the sovereignty and integrity of
India, the security of the State, friendly relations with Foreign States, public
order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or
incitement to an offence.
Right To Reputation v/s Media Trial
The right to reputation is a component of the right to life, as established in
State of Bihar v. Lal Krishna Advani. Each person has a right to their
reputation. However, all of the accused's rights are nullified in a media trial.
By exposing every single aspect of the accused to the public, including minute
facts, the media tarnishes the accused past, present, and future. His or her
prior behaviour is publicly contested, and once the media has determined that
someone is guilty, they sensationalize the crime so that the public believes the
person is guilty-even if the court finds the person innocent.
Thus, the press has been appropriately referred to as the Fourth Pillar of
Democracy and press freedom has always been a valued privilege in all democratic
countries. As long as there is transparency, the media may be called the fourth
pillar of democracy. In today's world, the media is viewed as a daily
requirement because we begin and finish our days with it, whether it be social
media, print media, or electronic media. It is obvious that the risk they pose
is serious after a collective analysis of the Supreme Court of India's rulings
on the subject of media trials.
The legislative branch has a responsibility to defend the judiciary and prevent
the hostile press from undermining the integrity of the legal system. The law
cannot permit the media to persuade the populace to oppose the government;
furthermore, the media cannot decide a man's fate; it is not in the media's
purview to determine whether an accused is innocent or guilty, nor should it
convince the public that the legal system is biased and unfair. Any such viewing
should be severely punished and should not be permitted to fall under the
protection of free speech and expression.