Supreme Court: In batch of appeals concerning the procedure to be followed by the police in investigating police encounters; and the propriety and procedure of media briefings by police personnel, the full bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, CJI, PS Narasimha and Manoj Misra, JJ. has directed the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (‘Ministry’) to prepare a comprehensive manual on media briefings by police personnel after considering the views from the Directors General of Police (‘DGPs’) and after consulting other stake holders including representative segments of the print and electronic media who may have suggestions on the issue. Further, it said that the viewpoint of the National Human Rights Commission shall also be duly taken into consideration
The Court said that the first issue, governing police encounters, has been dealt with in People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. State of Maharashtra, (2014) 10 SCC 635.
Concerning the second issue, regarding the modalities to be followed by the police in conducting media briefings, where a criminal investigation for an alleged offence is in progress, the Court said that media reporting on matters relating to the commission of crimes involves several aspects bearing on public interest. The fundamental right to free speech and expression engages the right of the media to disseminate news, views and information. The media in pursuance of its fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression have a right to disseminate, and the consumers of news, information and ideas have a right to receive fair and unbiased information.
Further, the Court said that the accused whose conduct is under investigation is entitled to a fair and unbiased investigation by the police. Unfair reporting by the media has the potential to affect public opinion and impinge upon the presumption of innocence which is one of the cardinal principles of criminal jurisprudence. At the stage of the investigation and even trial, every accused is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Media reportage in a manner which implicates the culpability of the person who is under investigation is liable to seriously impinge upon the reputation and personal dignity of the individual under investigation. Biased reporting also gives rise to public suspicion that the person under investigation has committed the offence though the complicity of the accused is yet to be investigated and, if a charge-sheet is submitted to be subjected to the administration of criminal justice in accordance with law.
The Bench also said that the media reportage also impinges upon the right of victims or survivors of crimes. The publication of photographs and visuals of the bodies of deceased victims of crime affects the very notion of preserving the dignity in death. Thus, while a disclosure by the media of relevant details involves public interest associated with the fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, the rights of the accused and of the victims or the survivors of crimes have a direct bearing on the fundamental right to life and personal liberty which is protected by Article 21.
The Court viewed that the Ministry should prepare a comprehensive manual on media briefings by police personnel. Further, it directed all the DGPs to communicate to the Ministry their suggestions for the preparation of appropriate guidelines.
The matter will next be taken up in the second week of January 2024.
[People’s Union for Civil Liberties v State of Maharashtra, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1166, Order dated 13-09-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Appellant(s): Advocate Dhiraj, Advocate Ashutosh Dubey, Advocate Anshu Vachher, A Advocate Akshat Vachher, Advocate Abhiti Vachher, Advocate-On-Record P. N. Puri, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, Advocate Aditya Sharma, Advocate Apurba Pattanayak, Advocate-On-Record Sumita Hazarika, Advocate-On-Record Ruchi Kohli
For Respondent(s): Advocate-On-Record Shobha Gupta, Advocate Aditya Ranjan, Advocate Jessy Kurian, Advocate Tarjana Rai, Advocate-On-Record Aaditya Aniruddha Pande, Advocate Siddharth Dharmadhikari, Advocate Bharat Bagla, Advocate Sourav Singh, Advocate Aditya Krishna, Advocate T A Khan, Advocate Wasim Quadri, Advocate Ruchi Kohli, Advocate Chinmayee Chandra, Advocate Swarupama Chaturvedi, Advocate-On-Record Arvind Kumar Sharma, Advocate Diksha Rai, Advocate Ragani Pandey, Senior Advocate Arunabh Choudhury, Advocate Pragya Baghel, Advocate-On-Record Jayant Mohan, Advocate-On-Record D. S. Mahra, Advocate-On-Record Anil K. Chopra, Advocate-On-Record Anil Shrivastav, Advocate-On-Record P V. Yogeswaran, Advocate-On-Record Guntur Prabhakar, Advocate Monika Gusain, Advocate Suvarna Singh, Advocate-On-Record Sanjay Kumar Visen, Advocate-On-Record Sumita Hazarika, Advocate-On-Record Amit Anand Tiwari, Advocate Devyani Gupta, Advocate Tanvi Anand, Advocate-On-Record Samir Ali Khan, Advocate-On-Record D. Mahesh Babu, Advocate-On-Record Jatinder Kumar Bhatia, Advocate Krishnam Mishra, Advocate Param Kumar Mishra, Advocate-On-Record T. Mahipal, Advocate-On-Record Gopal Singh, Advocate-On-Record M. R. Shamshad, Advocate-On-Record Manish Kumar, Advocate Shaswati Parhi, Advocate Ravi Shanker Jha, Advocate-On-Record Ranjan Mukherjee, Advocate-On-Record Sharmila Upadhyay, Advocate Sarvjit Pratap Singh, Advocate-On-Record Abhisth Kumar, Advocate-On-Record Ashok Kumar Singh, Advocate-On-Record Hemantika Wahi, Advocate-On-Record Shuvodeep Roy, Advocate Deepayan Dutta, Advocate-On-Record Chanchal Kumar Ganguli, Advocate-On-Record Praveen Agrawal, Advocate-On-Record Mukesh Kumar Maroria, Advocate-On-Record M. Shoeb Alam, Advocate-On-Record Tulika Mukherjee, Advocate-On-Record Sudarshan Rajan, Advocate-On-Record Sunny Choudhary, Advocate-On-Record V. K. Verma, Advocate Rajat Srivastav, Advocate T.C. Kaushik, Advocate Tarun Verma, Advocate-On-Record Rajat Arora, Advocate-On-Record Shibashish Misra, Advocate-On-Record Hrishikesh Baruah, Advocate Saumitra Srivastava, Advocate Radhika Gupta, Advocate-On-Record Ruchira Goel, Advocate-On-Record Rajiv Kumar Sinha, Advocate Raj Kumar, Advocate Kapil Sahni, Advocate-On-Record Sabarish Subramanian, Advocate Vishnu Unnikrishnan, Advocate C Kranthi Kumar, Advocate Naman Dwivedi, Advocate Danish Saifi, Advocate-On-Record Vanshaja Shukla,Advocate Rachana Gandhi,. Advocate-On-Record Saurabh Trivedi, Advocate Ashutosh Kumar Sharma, Advocate-On-Record Aravindh S., Advocate Abbas, Advocate-On-Record Pukhrambam Ramesh Kumar, . Advocate Karun Shrama, Advocate-On-Record Abhinav Mukerji, Advocate-On-Record Raghvendra Kumar, Advocate Anand Kumar Dubey, Advocate Jainendra Ojha, Advocate Simanta Kumar, Advocate-On-Record Pradeep Misra, Advocate Daleep Dhyani, Advocate Manoj Kumar Sharma, Advocate Suraj Singh, Advocate Bhuwan Chandra, Advocate-On-Record Ashok Panigrahi, Advocate-On-Record Merusagar Samantaray, Advocate-On-Record Swarupama Chaturvedi, Advocate-On-Record Subhasish Mohanty, Advocate-On-Record Jaspreet Gogia, Advocate-On-Record K. Enatoli Sema, Advocate-On-Record G. Prakash, Advocate-On-Record M. Yogesh Kanna, Advocate-On-Record Pragati Neekhra, Advocate-On-Record Arvind H.S., Advocate-On-Record V.K. Sharma, Advocate-On-Record V.N. Raghupathy, Advocate-On-Record M.K. Maroria,, Advocate-On-Record Krishnanand Pandey