white black legal international law journal ISSN: 2581-8503

Peer-Reviewed Journal | Indexed at Manupatra, HeinOnline, Google Scholar & ROAD



Authored by – Aditya


The right to freedom of speech and expression is very essential in a democracy and so is the freedom of the press. It creates an opportunity for free discussion of issues. These liberties must always be protected by the law, but no form of liberty can be unrestricted and absolute. There's no denying the media's role as a watchdog of government functions and abuses, keeping the public informed, educating them, and keeping them on their toes through a variety of platforms (television, radio, newspapers, etc.). Nowadays, however, it is clear that media outlets are acting as a "public court," interfering with judicial proceedings in a way that disregards the crucial distinction between a "accused" and a "convict" and thus puts at risk the twin tenets of justice that an individual be presumed innocent until proven guilty and that guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. The research study focuses on the balance between both the freedom and the restrictions on such freedoms.

In this paper, I'll try to dissect the effects of a media trial and show how the media uses the First Amendment to justify interfering in the judicial process when it shouldn't. The research also assesses the influence of media trial on right to privacy, right to reputation, right to be legally represented and right to a fair trial.



The Indian Constitution guarantees' six fundamental rights' in the form of personal liberty. Only the right to express oneself freely is at issue here.

All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, as guaranteed in Article 19 (1) (a). This freedom has a key role in developing ‘public opinion’ about ‘economic, political and social matters’. This freedom also includes the expression of opinions and views regarding any matter through any medium such as by ‘words of mouth’, ‘writing’, ‘picture’, ‘printing’, ‘movie’ etc.[1]


In Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras[2], Justice Patanjali Sikri observed that:

“Freedom of Speech and of the Press lay at the foundation of all democratic organizations, for without free political discussion no public education, so essential for the proper functioning of the process of popular Government, is possible.”

In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[3], Justice Bhagwati has highlighted on the importance of the ‘freedom of speech and expression’ as under:

“Democracy is based essentially on free debate and open discussion, for that is the only corrective of government action in a democratic setup. If democracy means government of the people by the people, it is obvious that every citizen must be entitled to participate in the democratic process and in order to enable him to intelligently exercise his right of making a choice, free and general discussion of public matters is absolutely essential.”

But this ‘right of freedom of speech and expression’ is not absolute. The Constitution of India guarantees this freedom under Article 19 (1) (a), but at the same time can impose ‘reasonable restrictions’ on such freedom based on the grounds provided under Article 19 (2). One must exercise its right in such a manner that it does not harm another.


  • Security of the State
  • Friendly relations with foreign states
  • Public Order
  • Decency or morality
  • Contempt of Court
  • Defamation
  • Incitement of an offence
  • Integrity and Sovereignty of India


Press freedom in India is not guaranteed by law but is assumed along with other liberties. The Indian Press Commission declared that ―Democracy may prosper not only under the attentive eye of its legislature, but also under the care and direction of public opinion and the press is par excellence, the vehicle through which the opinion can become vocal. The press's right to free speech is equal to the right of all citizens and enjoys no special privileges or protections.

The Apex Court has highlighted in several instances about the need of sustaining ‘freedom of the press’ in a democratic society. The press tends to serve the ‘public interest’ by making people aware of any facts and opinions by way of publications without which the general public cannot make responsible judgements. Articles and news stories frequently published in the press highlight the government's flaws. The government sometimes acts to limit the "freedom of the press" as a result. ― Therefore, it is the primary responsibility of the Courts to protect this right and to strike down any laws or administrative actions that would limit press freedom in violation of the Constitution.[4]

The ‘freedom of the press’ is more for the benefit of the general public than for the press itself because the public has a right to be furnished with information and the government has a ‘duty to educate’ the people within the limits of its resources.[5]

‘Pre-censorship’ or imposition of censorship on a newspaper before publication of any news would lead to the violation of the ‘freedom of speech and expression’. In R. Rajagopal v. State of T.N[6]., the Court held that there is no authority of the government under the law to impose ‘prior restraint’ on defamatory publications against its official but after the publication of such defamatory material if proved to be based on false facts can take action for damages.

In Brij Bhusan v. State of Delhi[7], an order was issued by the Chief Commissioner of Delhi, in accordance to Section 7 of the East Punjab Safety Act, 1949, against the ‘printer’, ‘publisher’ and ‘editor’ of the ‘Organiser’, requiring them to submit in duplicates all news and communal matters relating to Pakistan for examining them.

But the order was struck down by the Court, observing: ―....the imposition of pre- censorship of a journal is a restriction on the liberty of the press which is an essential part of the freedom of the speech and expression declared by Article 19 (1) (a).[8] Similarly, newspapers cannot be prohibited from publishing its own perspective or the perspective of the correspondents with respect to any burning topic of the day or else it will amount to violation of the ‘freedom of speech and expression’.[9]

Any law forbidding a journal from entering or circulating within a State is not valid. In Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras[10], the Court said that ‘freedom of propagation of ideas’ is included under the Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution and this ‘freedom of propagation of ideas’ is protected by the ‘freedom of circulation’.” The Court held that a law forbidding a journal from entering or circulating within a State is invalid. “Restrictions’ can be imposed on ‘freedom of speech and expression’ only when it falls within the scope of authorized restrictions under Article 19 (2) of the Indian Constitution.

In Sakal Papers Ltd v. Union of India[11], the petitioner challenged ‘The Newspaper (Price and Page) Act, 1956’ and ‘The Daily Newspapers (Price and Control) Order, 1960’ as unconstitutional on the ground that this Act and government order decided for the newspaper the ‘minimum price’ and the ‘number of pages’ it can publish, which was total infringement of the liberty of press. The petitioners were asked to raise the price without increasing the pages of the newspaper which in turn lessen the volume of circulation. The Supreme Court ruled it ‘invalid’ as because its motive was to minimize the circulation of some newspapers by unattractively raising their price.

In India, the rule of the day is that freedom of the press cannot be curtailed unless such limitation is a fair one and not excessive. It is vital to safeguard and sustain the freedom of the press in a democratic country but at the same time, it is also necessary to set some constraints which are permitted on that freedom. Article 19(2) of the Constitution specifies the conditions under which a restriction on "freedom of speech and expression" may be imposed, and these conditions must be reasonable.



Media in basic words is a way of communication. It involves printing, television and the Internet. In the present world, media has progressed a lot, enabling the spread of information simpler than ever before.

Media plays a very significant function in a democracy. It produces in the society a sense of awareness regarding the democratic and social responsibility.[12] Media is recognised as the ‘fourth pillar’ of democracy and it gives to the public the knowledge about the other three pillars, i.e. ‘executive, legislative and judiciary’, by making their work transparent.[13] The media has a duty to report the news in an objective manner. It is the basic role of the media to give out the facts rather than reaching to any opinion about any topic. It is the power on the hands of the media to affect the general public, which makes it vital that they comprehend and recognise the great responsibility associated to them and they must not in any way misuse it.” The media landscape has changed and expanded significantly throughout the years. “ In today’s society, media has a far-reaching influence and its need cannot be denied. But what important is its correct application to produce the beneficial changes in the community and this is feasible only when the media stay independent and unbiased.

However, the media occasionally tries to shape or bend public opinion and can alter the lens through which people view different events. Media restricting itself to the distribution of facts in an impartial way to the broader public is more preferred than trial by media.

‘Trial’ in an ordinary meaning denotes that a procedure that takes place before a Court of justice. A "trial" is "a formal judicial examination of evidence and adjudication of legal claims in an adversarial hearing," as defined by Black's Law Dictionary.[14] According to the definition, then, the media cannot serve as the trial's competent authority. However ‘trial by media’ is of colloquial origin signifying the position taken up by media effectively of a judicial forum and giving itself the adjudicatory process.

The media, in an increasingly competitive market, may sometimes stretch the truth and sensationalise news articles to pique readers' interest. The media is commonly seen expressing skewed viewpoints and propagating prejudice in the name of ‘news’.

The Supreme Court of India has recorded on the consequence of media trial as under:

“the impact of television and newspaper coverage on a person‘s reputation by creating a widespread perception of guilt regardless of any verdict in a court of law. During high publicity cases, the media are often accused of provoking an atmosphere of public hysteria akin to a lynch mob which not only makes a fair trial impossible but means that regardless of the result of the trial, in public perception the accused is already held guilty and would not be able to live the rest of their life without intense public scrutiny.”[15]

Media trial is not appreciated in a democratic society and there is judiciary to conduct such trial, which is considered as the competent institution for the administration of justice.


One thing that the criminal administration system of any civilised society should have in common is the minimal right to fair trial for every accused individual regardless of their position. Both the accused and the society are benefited when the fair trial is performed. One of the fundamental elements of democracy is the conducting of a fair trial.

Fair trial implies a trial that takes place before a judge who is neutral, a prosecutor who is fair and in a peaceful judicial setting. Every country that respects the ‘rule of law’ recognises the ‘right to fair trial’ as a fundamental right.

‘Right to fair trial’ in a ‘criminal prosecution’ is impliedly referenced under the ‘right to life’ guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. There are two purposes in view; it should be fair for both the prosecution and the accused. The Supreme Court stated that ―if the criminal trial is not free and fair and not free from prejudice, judicial fairness and the criminal justice system would be at peril shattering the faith of the people in the system and woe would be the rule of law‖.

It is established under the common law that the concept of ‘presumption of innocence’ is applied in a criminal prosecution and it is essential that the guilt of the accused be proved beyond reasonable doubt. This idea has also been embraced by several other countries. In Indian legal system, it is one of the basic concepts wherein it is considered that the accused is innocent till proved guilty in a criminal case.

In India, per the article 22 (2) of Constitution of India every individual should have ‘the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice’. In a landmark ruling, India's highest court stated that a system cannot be considered equitable and fair if a "accused," who is too poor to afford a counsel, is not given with one at the expense of the state.

Thus, right to fair trial in a democracy is of highest significance from good administration justice. When a fair trial is denied to an accused, it is as much injustice to the ‘accused’ as much as it is to the ‘victim’ and the ‘society’.


The Supreme Court of India explained that the right of the people to know is the fundamental principle behind the ‘freedom of the press’. The Supreme Court stated, “The primary function, therefore, of the press is to provide comprehensive and objective information on all aspects of the country’s political, social, economic and cultural life. It has an educative and mobilising role to play. It plays an important role in moulding public opinion.”[16]

The public's right to know is advanced by the press's ability to report on any topic from any available source. Public education ensures that individuals are prepared to make informed decisions regarding topics affecting society as a whole. When it comes to investigative journalism two things are most crucial, firstly, ‘the issue should be of public interest for the reader to know’ and secondly, an attempt is being made to conceal the truth from the public.[17]

The job of media in a democracy is to promote transparency. The people is given a voice on matters of national importance thanks to the media. There is no question that robust independent journalism still exists. Several large frauds were exposed by the press in recent years in India. ‘A good by product of developments driven by the media and handled by the Courts is that more people in India are cognizant of their constitutional rights than ever before.’ However the freedom of the press is necessary to be employed for the welfare of the people rather influencing their thoughts, with the objective of catching maximum attention on news items which may not be of public importance, simply for the purpose of excelling in the competition to be on the top.



As far as I can tell, media freedom is not mentioned anywhere in Chapter III of the Indian Constitution. There is no such clear provision in the Constitution of India about this freedom of media. This freedom is implicit in Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India providing ‘freedom of speech and expression’. Although this freedom is not explicitly stated, protecting it has not been a problem for Indian courts.

In Constituent Assembly Debates, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar said that:

“Press has no special rights which are not to be given or which are not to be exercised by the citizens in his individual capacity. The editor of a press or the manager is merely exercising the right of the expression, and therefore, no special mention is necessary of the freedom of the press.”[18]

Media freedom is not absolute and many ardent liberals believe that freedom of expression is not universal or infinite, but that they are not aware of the restrictions that should be enforced. Free Press does not have an absolute authority to print and transmit anything. The media must ensure that user-generated content is accurate and does not compromise the privacy or security of others. Hence, Article 19(2) lays forth the foundations on which 'equality of expression' might be subject to limits. "Those'restrictions' stem from the 'right to privacy,' the 'right to dignity,' the 'disrespect to court,' etc. Thus, the press must be legally accountable for any libel or defamation attacks made against a member of the public. Similarly, the rights of a person should not be compromised. Even, while a hearing in a court of law is going on, the publications should not pick up simultaneous cases. This is likely to amount to 'court disdain’.

One of the most criticised and important concerns of the day is the coverage of spectacular crimes by media and ignorance of the true issues in question. At the beginning, they pick up the so-called ‘evidence’ to buttress up a ‘scoop’. The media isn't well-versed in telling about the proof that is substantial for designating an accused as a convict since they are unfamiliar with the customary rules according to which evidence are to be referenced. Hence, this usually takes away from the victim the right to justice. This form of mocking of the right to justice is more visible when an average criminal or accused is made equal to a seasoned criminal or a crime by the media, without completing any necessary inquiry on the subject-matter. In majority of the situations, media is least bothered about the reputation of the accused and is more interested with producing a ‘Breaking News Item’.

Currently, it is extremely usual to witness that the accused is placed on trial by media and is pronounced as convict without even providing an opportunity to the opposite side to be heard, which plainly contradicts the natural justice concept. It is not just the reputation of the accused that is harmed but also the family of the accused that suffers along the road and even after the accused is cleared by the Court the wrecked reputation is beyond restoration. Consequently, even after their acquittal, it becomes difficult for them to regain their former image in the eyes of the public. It seems that ‘media trial’ has evolved to ‘media verdict’ which plainly reveals the misuse of freedom of expression.

Since the introduction of Target Rating point (TRP) the rivalry has intensified among the media firms which has generated huge amount of pressure on journalism. Before the establishment of this TRP, journalists used to operate with braveness, honesty and impartially. Yet with the demand of boosting TRP scales, the media fight has grown merciless. For the aim of controlling the media certain principles and norms are defined by the Press Council of India.

Nowadays, the media is exploiting its freedom in the garb of the ‘freedom of speech and expressing’. ‘Freedom of expression’ is authorised only to the degree to which it does not have any adverse effect on others.


There are times where the media played a significant part in bringing the accused of terrible crime to justice, but the issue arises that to what extent this ideal of ‘free speech’ may be stretched to sabotage ‘fair trial’. Trial by media urges the public to rely more on rapid media justice rather than waiting for the Court of law to pronounce its judgement on every given case.

Every institution is liable to be abused, and every liberty, if left unbridled, has the tendency to become a license which would lead to disorder and anarchy.’[19] Most of the times media fails to acknowledge the distinction between an accused and a convict and as a result it affects the principle of ‘audi alteram partem’.”

In India, the media has evolved into a ‘Populace Court’ or ‘Janta ki Adalat’, aiming through staging ‘media trials’ not only to represent a prejudiced view even before the proclamation of a judgement but also exerting a pressure on the courts to settle in line with their opinion.

The tendency that media trial has established into our present world is that ‘public interest’ is not significant but ‘what the public is interested in’ is more vital. With the advent of electronic media, the conduct of parallel trials by media outside the portal of Court has reached new peaks. The simultaneous trial performed relative to sub judice topics limits the ability of a judge to resolve a subject on its merits. When any decision of the judge goes against this so-called ‘media verdict’ then the media even tries to describe it as prejudiced or corrupt.

It is sometimes debated whether the media has become the "voice" of the masses through participatory journalism, or just the "noise" that unconsciously influences the judge sitting over a subject that has been publicly tested before the Court's judgement.


The problem with media trial is that it has produced some type of ‘tug of war’ between ‘free speech’ and ‘free trial’. The explanations as offered by media for the requirement of total freedom of the press is that this freedom derives from the public’s right to indulge with the concerns of the day which in some fashion impacts them. It is obvious in case of media trials that the media frequently takes over the position of a judge and seeks to override the ‘justice delivery system’ by prejudicing, sensationalising and manipulating facts. Consequently, resulting in a diversion from the ‘justice delivery process’ and destroying the ‘right of the accused to fair trial’. But the need is to strike a balance between the ‘right of the press to free speech’ and the ‘right of the accused to fair trial’ which is equally crucial. For the goal of dispensing of justice, the guarantee of fair trial is of highest importance. If there is any potential of prejudice or injustice in a criminal trial then the ‘criminal justice system’ will be at danger and the public faith on the system would be damaged.

Under the Constitution of India there is no such particular Article specifically dealing with fair trial but can be found impliedly under Article 21 of the Constitution. Such is the situation with ‘freedom of the press’, which has no clear and direct reference in the Constitution of India but can be found impliedly under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution.

In various times, media is deemed to exceed its right through its publications which are judged to be harmful to the ‘right of the accused’ to have a ‘fair trial’. It tends to undermine the premise of ‘presumption of innocence’, on which the Indian criminal justice system rests, by holding media trials. Media often forgets the notion that legislation is not ruled by feelings. The relevance of the right to fair trial may be appreciated from the fact the Article 21 of Constitution of India, which impliedly deals with fair trial, cannot be suspended even during an emergency.

In the Indian system of ‘administration of justice’ relating to criminal cases the fundamental principle that needs to be kept in mind is that a person brought before a court as an accused is to be presumed ‘innocent’ unless the person is declared as guilty by the criminal court which is competent to declare that person guilty. It is the prosecution upon whom the duty is to show the accused guilty in a criminal trial and there should not be any margin of question, i.e. it must be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. But during the trial by media no such criteria is adopted and for them the hearsay evidence or suspicion or alleged confession before the police by the accused, which is not even admissible as an evidence in a trial, are considered to be more than enough material to support and strengthen a ‘scoop’ which is served as a ‘breaking news’ item to the unsuspecting public. These forms of trials performed by media have a negative influence upon the notion of fair trial.

In the recent past, there have been various concerns on the breadth of the news agency or news reporter’s right to interview people facing any criminal accusations. Differentiating individuals who are previously convicted of crimes from those who are facing charges is the right to conduct an interview with them. In case of the person facing criminal accusations, a meticulous and cautious approach has been used. It is because when a trial is underway any information questioning the innocence or complicity of an accused individual in a crime may hurt the trial. Yet, when it comes to a convicted offender, a more lenient stance is taken and interviews are permitted, allowing society to get insight into the offender's motivations and the circumstances that led to his conviction.

In Saibal Kumar Gupta and Ors. v. B.K. Sen and Anr[20], the Supreme Court held that:

“No doubt it would be mischievous for a newspaper to systematically conduct an independent investigation into a crime for which a man has been arrested and to publish the results of that investigation. This is because trial by newspapers, when a trial by one of the regular tribunals of the country is going on, must be prevented. The basis for this view is that such action on the part of a newspaper tends to interfere with the course of justice whether the investigation tends to prejudice the accused or the prosecution. There is no comparison between a trial by a newspaper and what has happened in this case.”

Another unsettling ramification of media trial that goes unreported is the large amount of pressure that the lawyer suffers and therefore pressuring him not to take up the case of the accused which will finally result in a trial without any ‘legal representation’. The right to be legally represented is regarded to be one of the key components of the fair trial. Rejection of being represented by a lawyer is violation of the ‘principles of natural justice’.

There are several cases where the lawyer defending an accused was condemned by media. As was witnessed in the Jessica Lal Case when famous lawyer Ram Jethmalani opted to plead for the accused Manu Sharma, his morality was questioned and one of the media houses also said that Jethmalanii was trying to ‘defend the indefensible’. Likewise in the 26/11 trial, where the primary suspect Ajmal Kasab was represented by a lawyer named Abbas Kazmi, who stated that he had gone through mental harassment by media and the Public Prosecutor which worried him. These examples raise an essential question of is the court of India so weak to administer justice that the chance to be defended needs to be denied.


Another major issue that arises is whether the judges are influenced by the media. It is a serious matter to be worried about and there are allegations on the ‘media trials’ having influence over the judges.

Any publication that intends to poison the minds of the judge should amount to contempt of court. Although, the reliance is made on the impartial and competent judges in a judicial system but still restraint must be put on media trial which may have potential influence on the judges subconscious.

The capacity of the media to influence conduct and formulations of biases and opinions cannot be precluded. In In Re: P. C. Sen[21], it was expressed that the genuine risk of prejudicial remarks made in newspapers or by any mass media which must be guarded against is the ‘impression that such comments might have on the Judge‘s mind or even on the minds of witnesses for a litigant.’

The fragility of the judicial system originates from the very fact that judges are human beings and the rational process of adjudication may be tainted by an undue influence of irresponsible expression.

In Rao Harnarain v. Gumani Ram[22], the Court deprecated the practice of ‘trial by media’, wherein the Court observed that “journalist cannot take up the role of an investigator during the pendency of a case and then try to influence the Court. Influence on the Judges by the media has been denied tacitly by the Judiciary of India.” The Supreme Court observed that, “the grievance relating to trial by press would stand on a different footing. Judges do not get influenced by propaganda or adverse publicity.’[23] The judiciary has not directly accepted any influence of media trial on the judges but showed concern about the impact that the media might have on the trial which is pending before a court.


The law of privacy is a product of an expanding individualistic culture whereby the emphasis has been switched from society to the individual. The right to privacy is a fundamental human right, guaranteed by law and including the right to an environment that is free from the threat of physical harm or intrusion.

The ‘right to privacy’ and the ‘right to freedom of speech and expression’ might be seen as the two sides of the same coin. A person’s right to be left alone may be infringed by the other person’s right to be informed. Several concerns around personal privacy have risen to the forefront as media platforms have expanded. There is always a danger of the private life of a person being brought to the public domain by media resulting in an invasion of privacy and space of a person.

The Apex Court of India in R. Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu[24] observed that, “a citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child bearing and education among other matters. No one can publish anything concerning the above matters without his consent, whether truthful or otherwise and whether laudatory or critical. If he does so, he would be violating the right to privacy of the person concerned and would be liable in an action for damages. Position may, however, be different, if a person voluntarily thrusts himself into controversy or voluntarily invites or raises a controversy.”

“In the famous Double Murder Case, the newspapers were completely filled with the transcripts of emails of the deceased girl and denigrated her character. Thus, violating the right to privacy of the parties involved in the case.”

Hence, the journalist should be careful to avoid the possibility of being hauled up by the authorities for breach of privacy. In most circumstances, however, the law preserves the secrecy of the sources of a journalist unless public interests and justice are implicated. All of these harmful consequences of media trial on the general public, attorneys, judges and administration of justice by means of having negative repercussions on the right to fair trial, right to reputation, right to privacy, right to be legally represented demonstrates that media trial can never be justified.




In a democratic society, freedom is provided to the press yet that freedom is not unrestrained. Limitations that are reasonable can be imposed on press freedom if it affects the interest of justice. Although the negative impacts of media trial and the necessity to rein it in have also been highlighted, "freedom of the press" does not imply the ability to conduct a media trial.

It is the fundamental premise in the Indian criminal justice system to believe that a person presented before a court as an accused is innocent unless the individual is proclaimed guilty by the competent criminal court. Yet, this idea is not followed during a media trial, and the judges often disregard this fundamental foundation of the criminal justice system.

Media trial has possible repercussions on the subconscious of judges which will further impair the effective administration of justice. The judiciary has expressed worry about the possible impact of media trial on the subconscious mind of the judge without explicitly accepting that the judges are influenced by the media.

The "right to privacy" has also been compromised by the media trial. A person's right to personal privacy and space is always threatened by the possibility that information about their private life may be made public. The reputations of those engaged in a case are also impacted by its coverage in the media. It has repercussions for the persons involved and their families.

Trial by media also has additional troubling repercussions which go unrecognised like the pressure it produces on the attorneys taking up the case of an accused by pressuring them to give up such case. The right to a fair trial is violated if the accused cannot have access to legal counsel.

In a democratic culture, there is no doubting about the positive stance of the media. It serves to keep the populace informed and attentive. In spite of this, there is constant pressure on the media to avoid sensationalistic reporting, skewing the facts, damaging their reputation, making snap judgements, etc. With the growth of social media, new peaks have been attained in the operation of simultaneous media procedures outside the Court Portal. “They appear to put forth a biassed picture far before the judgement of the courts by conducting media trials. Emotionally intelligent reporting is urgently required. Freedom of the press shouldn't be so unrestricted that it might do harm to another person or group of people's way of life.

In short, media trial is a significant issue which has to be appropriately addressed and if the conditions necessitate harsh restrains should be enforced on media to prevent them from partaking in such activities of media trial.


Following are some of the tips which may aid in decreasing the threat of trial by media -

First, for the goal of prohibiting the media from making biassed publications and undermining the administration of justice, there is a need to make specific modifications in the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The beginning point of the ‘pendency of a criminal proceeding’ should be created from the moment of ‘arrest’; this will limit the media from making prejudiced publications from the time of ‘arrest’. It is also suggested by the 200th Law Commission Report. Yet this advice has not been adopted yet.

Second, the ‘Press Council of India’ (PCI) which is a statutory organisation is responsible with enhancing and maintaining the standards of print media. The PCI has relatively limited powers under the Press Council of India Act 1978. Under section 14 of the said Act, the Council only has the power to ‘warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, the news agency, the editor or the journalist or disapprove the conduct of the editor or the journalist’ if the standards of ‘journalistic ethics’ or public taste has been offended by a newspaper or a news agency, or any professional misconduct has been committed by the editor or a working journalist. A mere warning is not adequate but some form of fee should be levied on the media houses for the harm created by them.

Finally, the Press Council Act, 1978 solely deals with the print media and the demand for incorporating the electronic media within its jurisdiction has also emerged. Self-regulation of the broadcasting media cannot be the way to tackle the problem of media trial. Without the threat of penalty, it is not feasible to manage the media trials.

Fourth, to enter into the journalistic industry, there should be a stated minimum level. Media personnel should be made knowledgeable of the norms of the media and even of the constraints on the media. Journalism's syllabus should incorporate norms and ethics in the media. Laws pertaining to court contempt and defamation, for example, may also be covered if they are deemed important from a media perspective and included in the course outline. At the onset of their professional life, this would allow them to be cognizant of their constraints.

What is needed, in addition to these guidelines, is that the media as an organisation should be attentive while sharing their ideas and should know that media trials are never accepted. The media have to recognise that 'equality of speech and expression' does not empower them to do everything they choose to do and convey.


[1] Ruma Pal and Samaraditya Pal (rev.), M. P. Jain, INDIAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, 6th ed. 2010, p. 1085.

[2] AIR 1950 SC 124.

[3] AIR 1978 SC 597 : (1978) 1 SCC 248.

[4] Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India, AIR 1986 SC 515.

[5] Ruma Pal and Samaraditya Pal (rev.), M. P. Jain, INDIAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, 6th ed. 2010, p. 1085.

[6] (1994) 6 SCC 632.

[7] AIR 1950 SC 129.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Virendra v. State of Punjab, AIR 1957 SC 896.

[10] AIR 1950 SC 124.

[11] AIR 1962 SC 305.

[12] Ruheela hasan, ‘Freedom of Media in India – (A Legal Perspective)’, 3 IJHSS (2014), p. 191.

[13] Ayesha Khalid, Media as a Fourth Pillar of Democracy, VOJ Blog, https://www.voj.news/media-as-a- fourth-pillar-of-democracy/ (April 24, 2018).

[14] Justice V. Rajkumar, ‘Trial by Media’, http://www.livelaw.in/trial-by-media/ (April 27, 2018). 53 Ibid.

[15] R. K. Anand v. Delhi High Court, (2009) 8 SCC 106.

[16] In Re: Harijai Singh and Anr.; In Re: Vijay Kumar, (1996) 6 SCC 466.

[17] Zehra Khan, ‘Trial-By-Media: Derailing Judicial Process in India’, 1 MLR (2010), p. 94.

[18] Dr. Ambedkar’s Speech in Constituent Assembly Debates, VII, 980.

[19] Express Newspapers v. U.O.I., (1997) 1 SCC 133.

[20] AIR 1961 SC 633.

[21] AIR 1970 SC 1821.

[22] AIR 1958 P H 273.

[23] Balakrishna Pillai v. State of Kerala, AIR 2000 SC 2778.

[24] AIR 1995 SC 264.


Let's Start With Publication