Media was once a boon that enlightened people and made them aware of what is
going around in the world. The Indian media has to follow the principles laid
down in the Constitution of India. There are essentially three pillars of
democracy that are the legislature, executive and judiciary and now the media
has become the fourth pillar of democracy. It highlights the social, legal,
economic and cultural problems of the society.
Media has now transformed itself into a Janta Adalats or 'public court' and
started intervening in the proceedings of the court. The vital gap between the
convict and accused is completely overlooked by the media by keeping at stake
the cardinal principles of 'presumption of innocence until proven guilty' and
'guilt beyond reasonable doubt'.
Now what is being observed is a separate
investigation done by the media itself which is called a media trial. Along with
investigation, it includes forming public opinion against the suspect or the
accused even before the court takes cognizance of the case. As a result of this,
the public is prejudiced due to which the accused who should have been assumed
innocent is presumed to be a criminal abandoning all his rights and liberty
Medial Trail Defined:
Whenever there is any sensitive case that comes to be tried before the court,
then among the people there is an anticipated upsurge in curiosity. Always
looking forward to sensational news, Media including newspapers, television
channels, news websites, etc. start publishing their own interpretation of
facts. It is called investigative journalism and is not prohibited in India. The
influence of media coverage via newspapers and television on an individual by
creating a perception of innocence or guilt even before the Court of law
announces its judgment, it is called as Media Trial
or Trial by Media
Famous Indian Cases of Media Trial:
There have been multiple cases which have been tried by Media, few of the famous
cases have been discussed below:
Sanjay Dutt Case:
After the Supreme Court sentenced Sanjay Dutt to 5 years imprisonment, he had to
serve in jail due to his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai Serial Blast. In 1994,
Sanjay Dutt was arrested at the airport and he confessed that in January, 1993
Abu Sale, Mafia Don had visited his home with Hanif Kadawala and Samir Hingora,
they were Magnum proprietors and alleged close associates of Dawood Ibrahim, who
is an underworld don. In his statement, Sanjay Dutt also said that these people
along with ammunition had got three AK-56 rifles with them, out of which one was
kept by Sanjay Dutt.
According to him, he kept the gun in order to protect his family because of the
threats that he had received during the riots in Mumbai which was followed by
the Babri Masjid demolition in December, 1992. After Sanjay Dutt heard the
arrest of Hanif Kadawala and Samir Hingora and the serial blasts in Mumbai,
Dutt asked his friend Yusuf Nulwalla to destroy the rifle. Though, the statement
was later withdrawn by him. After this, he was soon charged and arrested
under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), 1987 for
receiving ammunition from Abu Salem and his involvement in the blasts.
However, after 18 months of imprisonment, Sanjay Dutt was able to secure a bail.
The TADA court after 11 years acquitted Sanjay Dutt of all charges made against
him after observing that he had acquired guns for self-defence and he was not a
terrorist. He was sentenced to six years in jail for conviction under the Arms
Act, for which Sanjay Dutt had managed to secure a bail from the Supreme Court.
On 31 July, 2007, he was sent to Pune's Yerawada prison. However, he was later
out on bail. On March 21, 2013, the Supreme Court had further cut short his term
to five and which ended on February 27, 2016.
Being a famous actor, this case was highlighted by the media to an extent, the
media portrayed the picture of Sanjay Dutt as a terrorist, which was later held
by the Court that he was not accused of those charges. After this incident,
being an actor he had to suffer a lot of problems and outrage and his reputation
Sheena Bohra Murder Case
In the year 2012 Indrani Mukerjea was arrested for the murder of Sheena Bora,
the shocking news, in this case, was that Sheena was the daughter, not the
sister as claimed by Indrani Mukerjea. The media highlighted the case and even
after her arrest Indrani never accepted that she had two children and was stuck
to her statement claiming Sheena as her sister. The murder also brought into
light the murky financial dealings of Indra Mukerjea and her husband Peter
Mukerjea. They successfully manipulated facts hence no trail was initiated
against them for three years.
The personal life of Indrani Mukerjea had been pierced by the tormenting eyes of
the media which paved the way for fresh debate in the murder trial issue of the
accused. Indrani's character and personal life, all the aspects which have no
ration with the investigation of the murder of Sheena were under the public lens
of scrutiny through media. The journalism ethics had been again under the
controversial debate due to their meddling with the personal matter of the
Jessica Lal Murder:
In 1999, Jessica Lal (model turned barmaid) working in a restaurant owned by
socialite Bona Ramani in Mehrauli, South Delhi's, was shot dead by Manu Sharma
(alias Siddharth Vashisth), son of Congress former Union Minister, Venod Sharma
after Jessica refused to serve liquor to him and his friends. This case
immediately gained media coverage after the murder when the accused was
acquitted by the trial court.
This case became one of the top cases where the
public pressure and media compelled the justice system to take a second look at
this case. Though Manu Sharma was acquitted initially in the year 2006 as the
Delhi police failed to sustain the grounds on which they had built up their case
after public outcry due to the media coverage of the case, the Delhi High Court
sentenced him to life imprisonment.
The Tikku, Kakkar double murder case:
This was a very sensational case where two Delhi residents were murdered by a
money-crazy criminal and his female associate. Police said that Vijay Palande,
prime accused and former gangster used his wife, Simran Sood, who was a model as
a 'honeytrap' to commit the crimes for confiscating the victim's properties. In
April, 2012, Palande along with his mates Manoj Gajkosh and Dhananjay Shinde
murdered businessman Arunkumar Tikku who was a resident of Delhi.
The police said that Palande had encouraged the son of the victim, Anuj Tikku
who was an actor with a motive that Tikku can acquire Palande's apartment which
was located in the Lokhandwala Complex in Mumbai's upscale. The Mumbai crime
branch had arrested the trio along with Simran Sood in connection to the
abduction and murder of Delhi-based aspiring producer Karankumar Kakkad. Palande
made a confession that he suspected Kakkad was an underworld mole, who would
kill him, so Palande had to kill Kakkad. The police also said that Simran had
acquainted Palande as her "brother" to Tikku and Kakkad.
In 1998 Palande had been convicted of a double murder and then again in the year
2002, he jumped parole in 2003, went for a cosmetic surgery to Bangkok to change
his features and in 2005 he returned to Mumbai.
In 2012, this double murder case shook the nation and made its way to TV and
newspaper headlines as one of the most chilling murder mysteries in valuing a
sophisticated serial killer in recent times in India. He was arrested for
masterminding the murders of Tikku and Kakkar. On November 18, 2011, Palande was
given a life sentence for the murder of the two men.
The Delhi rape case:
The brutal gang rape on the night of 16 December 2012 of a 23-year-old
physiotherapy intern who besides being raped was tortured and beaten in a
private bus in which she was travelling with her male friend. Including the
driver, six men on the bus who raped her and beat her friend. She was admitted
to the hospital and after eleven days she was shifted for an emergency to the
hospital in Singapore but died after two days.
Since the laws in India do not permit the press to reveal the name of the game
victim, the victim has become widely known as Nirbhaya, meaning "fearless", and
the girl's struggle against the incident and her death has become a symbol of
resistance by the women in the world.
This incident inflamed extensive national and international coverage. The
incident was criticized widely, both in India as well as abroad. Thereafter,
there were multiple protests in different parts of the country against the
central and state governments for failing to provide proper security for women.
Due to so much outrage in the media, there were multiple amendments in the laws
including the Juvenile Justice Act, where for the heinous crime the age for
punishment had been reduced to from eighteen to sixteen.
Neeraj Grover Murder Case:
The case received much media attention due to its extremely gruesome nature. In
May, 2008, Neeraj who worked in a Mumbai-based production house was found dead.
The dead body of Neeraj was chopped into pieces and then stuffed in three
garbage bags and then they took the body to the forest and set it on fire. A
police complaint was filed by one of Neeraj's friend, Maria Susairaj that he was
missing but later it was found that Maria was involved in the murder.
discovered that Maria's boyfriend Lieutenant M.L. Jerome Mathew was behind the
murder of Neeraj because he suspected Maria having an affair with Neeraj and
killed him in a fit of rage. The killing and subsequent trial attained
significant media coverage in India which reported public outrage on the verdict
given to the accused who had chopped the body into multiple pieces and set it on
fire. One of the news channels had criticized the defamation of the accused,
claiming that the accused was under a lot of stress.
Nitish Katara Murder Case:
This was a case of honour killing, Vikas Yadav, son of famous politician DP
Yadav had brutally murdered Nitish Katara. Nitish had an affair with Bharti
Yadav who was the sister of Vikas Yadav, Vikas never approved of their love. At
the mutual friend's wedding where both Vikas and Nitish were present, Vikas took
the opportunity and killed Nitish by taking him for a ride. According to the
autopsy report, Vikas had badly beaten Nitish that even his digestive system had
fallen apart and a DNA test was conducted for identification. Vikas was
sentenced to life imprisonment.
Sometimes in the media trial, the accused is even not given proper conviction
which he is entitled to.
In 2007, dead bodies of children and adults were found in the house of Moninder
Sinh Pandher situated in Nithari village of Noida. It was revealed as soon as
the investigation begins that servant of Pandher, Surender Kohli had been
involved in raping and killing women which included minors and even used to eat
their body parts, there was one case where he even cooked the body parts.
Moninder Sinh Pandher was acquitted in 2009 of the charges against him in one
case but he is still a co-accused in other case and his death penalty has been
The Allahabad High Court commuted Surender Kohli's death sentence to
life imprisonment. After that, the CBI Court had pronounced both Surinder Koli
and Moninder Singh Pandher guilty in the attempt to rape and murder of Pinki
Sarkar who was 20 years old. This was the eighth murder committed by them out of
sixteen murder cases in which judgement has been delivered. The case got
highlighted by the media and the accused was served the punishment.
Influence of media on the accused:
Influence of media on the witness:
- If a suspect or an accused has already been projected by the media as
guilty even before the trial in the Court, then there are possibilities of
serious prejudice to the accused.
- If the person who is suspect or an accused is acquitted by the Court
after the due process, even the acquittal may not prove to be helpful for
the accused to rebuild his image in the society.
- Exaggerated and unreasonable publicity in the media, characterizing the
person as guilty, even when the verdict is still pending, amounts to undue
influence with the "administration of justice", which called for proceeding
against the media for contempt of Court.
Influence of Media on Judges and Court:
- If the identity of the witness is revealed, then there is a possibility
that the witness will be under pressure from the police as well as the
accused or his associates.
- The witness at an early stage wants to withdraw and get out of chaos
- Then the protection of the witness is a serious issue. This brings a
question about the admissibility of the evidence of a hostile witness and
whether there should be an amendment in the law for the prevention of
witnesses from changing their statements.
- Even Judges come within the purview of criticism which can either be on
their judicial conduct or conduct in a purely private capacity. But it
becomes a matter of concern when the criticism about the Judges is
ill-informed or entirely not on the foundation which may have a tendency to
undermine the faith of the people in the judiciary.
- A Judge has to protect himself from such media pressure which can
'unconsciously' influence the juries or the judges and as human beings, the
judges are prone at least subconsciously or unconsciously to such indirect
In the case of State of Maharashtra v. Rajendra Jawanmal Gandhi, 1997
Supreme Court held that a trial by electronic media, press or by way of public
agitation is anti-thesis to the rule of law and can lead to a miscarriage of
There have been numerous instances where the media has been blamed and accused
of conducting the trial of the accused by passing the "Verdict" according to
their investigation before the judgement is passed by the Court. It is essential
that the trial must be carried out by the Court and not the media. The trial by
the media is certainly an undue interference in the procedure of delivery of
The legislature has a great responsibility to perform while drafting laws on
media, ensuring that their freedom is not curtailed. Media has the right to
discuss and comment on the case judgments but they have no right or freedom to
start a trial on sub-judice matters. The right of the accused to have a fair
trial is always more important than the freedom of media before starting the
trial of the pending case. Media trial hinders the purpose of justice.
It becomes clear that the influence of the media had a more negative effect
rather than a positive effect (except for a few exceptions). The Courts should
properly regulate the media. The Courts should not grant free hand to the media
in the Court proceedings as they are not some event of the sport.
The most favourable way for legislating the media is by exercising the contempt
of court to penalize the ones who interfere with the basic code of conduct. The
Supreme Court has approved in a number of cases the use of contempt powers by
the Courts against the newspapers and media channels. Freedom of speech and
expression cannot be allowed to the media to an extent to prejudice the trial
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Sachin Kumar
Authentication No: MR208076925312-21-0322