Cardozo, one of the great Judges of American Supreme Court in his “Nature of the Judicial Process” observed that the judges are subconsciously influenced by several forces. Supreme Court has expressed a similar view in P.C. Sen In Re: AIR 1970 SC 1821 and Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd. v. Proprietors of Indian Express 1988 (4) SCC 592. 147) There is danger, of serious risk of prejudice if the media exercises an unrestricted and unregulated freedom such that it publishes photographs of the suspects or the accused before the identification parades are constituted or if the media publishes statements which out rightly hold the suspect or the accused guilty even before such an order has been passed by the Court.
Despite the significance of the print and electronic media in the present day, it is not only desirable but least that is expected of the persons at the helm of affairs in the field, to ensure that trial by media does not hamper fair investigation by the investigating agency and more importantly does not prejudice the right of defence of the accused in any manner whatsoever. It will amount to travesty of justice if either of this causes impediments in the accepted judicious and fair investigation and trial.
The freedom of speech protected under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution has to be carefully and cautiously used, so as to avoid interference in the administration of justice and leading to undesirable results in the matters sub judice before the Courts.
A Bench of Supreme Court in the case of R.K. Anand v. Delhi High Court (2009) 8 SCC 106, clearly stated it would be a sad day for the court to employ the media for setting its own house in order and the media too would not relish the role of being the snoopers for the Court. Media should perform the acts of journalism and not as a special agency for the Court. 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. This will not be fair.
Even in the case of M.P. Lohia v. State of W.B. & Anr. (2005) 2 SCC 686, the Court reiterated its earlier view that freedom of speech and expression sometimes may amount to interference with the administration of justice as the articles appearing in the media could be prejudicial, this should not be permitted.
Presumption of innocence of an accused is a legal presumption and should not be destroyed at the very threshold through the process of media trial and that too when the investigation is pending. In that event, it will be opposed to the very basic rule of law and would impinge upon the protection granted to an accused under Article 21 of the Constitution [Anukul Chandra Pradhan v. Union of India & Ors. (1996) 6 SCC 354].
It is essential for the maintenance of dignity of Courts and is one of the cardinal principles of rule of law in a free democratic country that the criticism or even the reporting particularly, in sub judice matters must be subjected to check and balances so as not to interfere with the administration of justice.
The court in ‘Siddhartha Vashishth @ Manu Sharma v. State (NCT of Delhi)