Media Trial Or Kalyug:
Isn't it one and the same thing when we take a look
around us. Being abreast of has gradually taken course of being a pre requisite
in this era of yug we live in now wherein comes the role taken up by our beloved
media to strive for that goal but what goes wrong herein is the injustice which
becomes blur getting covered up within the ambit of popular opinion in media
Freedom of Media is perceived as Freedom of People in a larger
perspective thereby equating it to the Freedom of Speech and Expression
guaranteed under Article 19(1) of our Indian Constitution. Being a fourth pillar
of our democratic nation, the media platform assumes certain roles,
responsibilities and powers which have proven effective in moulding the
perception of people by the way they want to.
It has however turned into a
misuse in the recent contemporaneous era wherein the principle of our Criminal
Jurisprudence relies upon the popular adage which goes by " Innocent until
proven guilty" - a seemingly impossible aim evident from the path we are
currently treading upon.
A long way ahead is yet to be explored with respect to this new arena which has
come to rule the minds of majority populace.
Understanding the subject matter:
"Fair is foul and foul is fair"- by Macbeth has come to rule Journalism which is
no less than a fun house of mirrors at a carnival. What originally began as a
publicity stunt and gimmick to grab people's attention and boost viewership has
persisted for far too long and is now jeopardising the very democracy from which
it draws its authority.
This pervasive integration has reduced the courtrooms to
a mere spectator with its inhibiting powers and collapsing separation of powers
is what has been troublesome owing to the oversensationalizing of issues
pertaining to legal courtroom cases. Democracy can thrive not only under the
vigilant eye of its legislature, but also under the care and guidance of public
opinion, and the press is par excellence, the vehicle through which the opinion
can become articulate.
There is a chance of what is sometimes referred to as a "trial by public
opinion" in instances that garner a lot of media attention. This happens when
the defendant, long before their real legal trial, is effectively judged and
condemned in the court of public opinion. Such trials can have disastrous
results since it might be difficult to overcome the assumption of guilt and
While the media plays a vital conduit role in providing
information and holding people accountable in our legal system, when coverage
becomes excessive or biased, it also runs the risk of impinging on someone's
right to a fair trial. Legal regimes must strike a careful balance between
transparency and the protection of this fundamental right in order to address
these issues. It is undeniable that the media has sparked a conflict between the
right to press freedom and a fair trial.
When questioned about this, the media
argues that a democracy can only exist in the presence of a free press, which is
a right derived from the people's right to be informed about the ongoing of
their elected government on subjects that affect them. The media frequently has
a tendency to alter the truth in order to boost audience, which leads to regular
deviations from the legal system's conception of justice.
The individuals concerned lose their right to a fair trial as a result of this
departure and overreaching into the judiciary's purview. The right to a fair
trial lies at the heart of democracy and our Constitution, which also includes
the right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty, the right to legal
representation, the right to a timely trial, and other rights.
This privilege is
crucial not only for the benefit of the accused, but also to protect the
integrity of the judiciary and public trust in the system. It can be stated that
the media has functioned as a catalyst in numerous cases, such as the Jessica Lal murder case, in which the media played a significant part in presenting the
perpetrator in court via different sting operations.
The media also had a
significant influence in the administration of justice in the Priyadarshini
Mattoo case, although these are uncommon instances of positive media
interference. The media nearly compelled the judiciary to sentence the Nirbhaya
Rape convicts to death by generating public panic through its reporting. As a
result, meddling has frequently done more harm than good. Media will have a good
impact on people as long as it functions as a spark and does not go beyond
The relentless contribution of sensationalised media trials is the Constant 24/7
news cycle, which is fed by Digital Media. With news at our fingertips, the need
to produce consistent material and attract people has led to sensationalism.
Media outlets fight for viewers' attention, frequently favouring spectacular
headlines and dramatic stories over objective reporting.
This constant flood of
information has the potential to shape public perception by emphasising
emotional appeal and exaggeration. In addition to this, the General public's
insatiable desire for drama and dramatic stories contribute to this on an
unprecedented scale wherein the audience demand drives media outlets, and
stories containing an element of controversy or scandal tend to receive greater
As a result, they concentrate on instances with juicy information,
high-profile people, or disputed subjects. In order to increase viewership and
readership, this catering to public interest may result in the misrepresentation
of facts and judicial procedures. The Introduction of social media has increased
the influence of media trials whereby true or misleading information spreads
virally on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube etc.
While social media
has the ability to democratise knowledge, it also does not adhere to established
journalistic standards. False or incorrect information can easily spread,
exacerbating situations and adding to societal bias. Lastly what constitutes a
critical aspect is a Lack of accountability in the media owing to the inadequacy
of journalists to check facts or consider the legal repercussions of their
reporting in the race to break news first. Misinformation, misrepresentation,
and sensationalism can result in tainting public image and influencing juror
Attentuating Plan Of Action:
This is where it becomes relevant to delve into the mitigating arenas wherever
possible since Conflict is inevitable but Combat is more often than treated as
optional. With respect to addressing the present issue at hand, the following
measures can be taken account of:
Media Reporting Guidelines:
Creating clear and comprehensive criteria for media
reporting on judicial matters might assist in avoiding sensationalism and bias.
These rules may include reporting principles such as accuracy, fairness, and
impartiality thereby discouraging the release of biased information that may
sway public opinion.
Courts can issue gag or restraining orders to prevent the media from
disclosing specific details or comments about a case. These orders are
frequently invoked to preserve the accused's rights and ensure a fair trial as
also striking a proper balance with the First Amendment rights to Free
Separating jurors from media exposure during a trial might
prevent outside influence on their perceptions. This approach serves to ensure
that jurors base their decisions only on the factual matrix provided in the
court, rather than on external information or biases.
Recent news articles have shifted focus upon what the public is interested in
rather than what subjects are of public interest. The increased use of
electronic media has resulted in an increase in such media trials due to the
increased opportunity for broadcasting and near-zero supervision.
When the media
conducts parallel trials, the ability of a judge to determine matters neutrally
on the merits of the case is hampered, particularly in sub judice matters. If
the judge rules or pronounces a verdict contrary to the media's opinion or
verdict, the judge is depicted as biased and corrupt, incapable of carrying out
his or her duties. The relentless examination in sub judice cases has resulted
in a very dangerous situation.
Without a doubt, the media possesses enormous
power and influence over the people; this power, when misused under the guise of
participatory journalism, affects the case by subconsciously influencing the
judge's decision, because the media has tried the matter prior to the Court's
decision. The media should understand the distinction between assisting the
court in dispensing justice and impeding the process of justice delivery by
meddling and overstepping bounds.
The media is responsible for reporting the
facts and circumstances of the case, but the judiciary is entirely responsible
for adjudication. As the fourth estate of the president, the media influences
the standard of democracy in any state and asserts its function by strengthening
and elevating the standard of democracy.
The democratic structure of India calls for an apparatus at every stage to
ensure a maintenance of law and order coupled with justice as enshrined in our
law of the land. This is where the pillars upholding the same seeps in i.e.
Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and Media. It is somewhat implied that with
great power not only comes great responsibility but sometimes the undue
advantage as well leading to the abuse of the same as is evident from the
Digital India Age.
The basis of our Criminal Jurisprudence is now under a threat
of eroding the principle of proving someone guilty beyond reasonable doubt which
is at the hands of media who have assumed themselves to be the adjudicators and
forbearers of truth but on the face of it, a rather misleading and controversial
facet is run by them.
The moral and ethical standards of journalism back then
were rigid as compared to the present where the viewership is given utmost
priority than the facts and circumstances of a case. The similar was the story
followed by media during our beloved Sushant Singh Rajput's case
which was oversensationalised to a point that the truth got camouflaged in the same and
the populace was unaware as to what actually struck him upto several months.
This is how a blessing in disguise of media has turned to a curse in the
obstruction of justice which needs to rectified at its earliest.
Therefore, to achieve an equilibrium what becomes essential is the preservance
of our robust and independent judicial structure on one hand and our fundamental
right of free speech and expression on the other hand. This will ultimately
safeguard the principles of the foundation upon which our democratic societies
are formulated but it must not be forgotten that any failure or breach in the
same can soon erode the trust of the populace in our legal system comprising the
ideals which lay at the heart of our constitution. This is why every minor
inconvenience even today calls for people approaching courts at the very
instance without any hesitation which is what should be the ideal goal to live
- Ramchandani, S. (n.d.). "The Constitutionality of Media Trials in India: A Critique"
- Banerjee, S. (2021b, May 12). "Reflection of the media trial as a threat to our judicial system"-iPleaders.
- Trial by Media - A Threat to Our Judicial System? (n.d.).
- Editor_4. (2020, September 13). Trial by Media: an International Perspective | SCC Blog
- 13_chapter4. (n.d.). Scribd
- Vijayan, K. (2014). Media trial. Kerala University.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Vidhi Kawrani
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