Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where withing a couple of days of the alleged dowry death of a doctor in Agra, a suicide note was leaked to the newspapers of the city, the 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud*, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, JJ has said that selective disclosures to the media affect the rights of the accused in some cases and the rights of victims families in others.

“The media does have a legitimate stake in fair reporting. But events such as what has happened in this case show how the selective divulging of information, including the disclosure of material which may eventually form a crucial part of the evidentiary record at the criminal trial, can be used to derail the administration of criminal justice.”

Background

The deceased, a doctor by profession, married the accused, also a doctor, in 2014. Over Rs.1.50 crores were spent by the deceased’s father for conducting the marriage. It was alleged that even thereafter, deceased’s husband, his parents, brother-in-law and sister-in-law misbehaved with the deceased on account of dowry. Deceased’s father alleges to have paid money on several occasions by cheque to her in-laws. Also, she was severely assaulted in 2017. In the meantime, the deceased suffered miscarriages on two occasions and ultimately, adopted a daughter. The FIR states,

“… dowry greedy people killed Dipti in [xxx] for non-receipt of dowry and non-fulfilment of the demands, and admitted Dipti in their hospital itself in the almost dead condition, in order to save themselves, but she was not allowed any treatment with the intention of killing her. In order to save the life of Dipti, the applicant took her away to the Sarvodaya hospital Faridabad for treatment, at the earlies.” (sic)

While the Sessions Judge denied anticipatory bail on 21 August 2020, the single judge of Allahabad High Court held that

(a) the FIR prima facie appears to be engineered to implicate the applicants;

(b) there is no corelation in between the various allegations leveled in the FIR; and

(c) the allegations “are general in nature” with no specific role being assigned to the accused.

Analysis

On FIR being “engineered” to implicate the spouse of the deceased and his family

Finding the judgment of the Single Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad unsustainable, the Court held that the FIR contained a recital of allegations bearing on the role of the accused in demanding dowry, of the prior incidents of assault and the payment of moneys by cheque to the in-laws of the deceased. It aslo referred to the telephone calls which were received both from the father-in-law of the deceased on the morning of 3 August 2020 and from the deceased on two occasions on the same day- a few hours before her body was found.

“The grant of anticipatory bail in such a serious offence would operate to obstruct the investigation. The FIR by a father who has suffered the death of his daughter in these circumstances cannot be regarded as “engineered” to falsely implicate the spouse of the deceased and his family.”

On publicity of the alleged suicide by media

“This is not fair to the accused because it pulls the rug below the presumption of innocence. It is not fair to the victims of crime, if they have survived the crime, and where they have not, to their families.”

The investigating officer has a duty to investigate when information about the commission of a cognizable offence is brought to their attention. Unfortunately, this role is being compromised by the manner in which selective leaks take place in the public realm. Neither the victims nor their families have a platform to answer the publication of lurid details about their lives and circumstances.

“The daughter of the appellant had died in mysterious circumstances. The family had completed the last rites. To expect that they should be scouring the pages of the print and electronic media before reporting the crime is a mockery of the human condition.”

Further, the apprehension of the appellant that the deceased’s husband and his family have a prominent social status in Agra and may have used their position in society to thwart a proper investigation cannot be regarded to be unjustified.

On transfer of investigation to CBI

“The investigation by the UP Police in the present case leaves much to be desired.”

The Court said that it would be a travesty if it were to ignore the glaring deficiencies in the investigation conducted so far. Further,

“The status of the accused as propertied and wealthy persons of influence in Agra and the conduct of the investigation thus far diminishes this Court’s faith in directing a further investigation by the same authorities. The cause of justice would not be served if the Court were to confine the scope of its examination to the wisdom of granting anticipatory bail and ignore the possibility of a trial being concluded on the basis of a deficient investigation at best or a biased one at worst.”

Hence, it is necessary to entrust a further investigation of the case to the CBI in exercise of the powers of this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution.

Directions

(i) The order passed by the Single Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad allowing the applications for anticipatory bail by the respondents-accused set aside and the bail granted to them stands cancelled; and

(ii) The CBI is directed to conduct a further investigation in the matter.

[Dr. Naresh Kumar Mangla v. Anita Agarwal,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 1031, decided on 17.12.2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

Editors Guild of India is concerned about the news coverage of the farmers’ protests in the national capitals, wherein certain sections of the media have been labelling them as “Khalistanis”, “anti-nationals”, and other such terms to delegitimize the protests without any evidence or proof. This goes against the tenets of responsible and ethical journalism. Such actions compromise the credibility of the media.

EGI advises media organizations to display fairness, objectivity, and balance in reporting the farmers’ protests, without displaying partisanship against those who are exercising their constitutional rights to express themselves.

Media shouldn’t be complicit to any narrative that derogates dissent and stereotypes protestors based on their attire and ethnicity.


Editors Guild of India

[Media Advisory dt. 04-12-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

Press Council of India has considered references received from various quarters by Government about the responsibility of Indian Newspapers in publishing foreign contents.

The Council is of the view that unregulated circulation of the foreign content is not desirable.

Hence, it advises the media to publish foreign extracts in Indian newspapers with due verification as the Reporter, Publisher and Editor of such newspaper shall be responsible for the contents irrespective of the source from which it is received.


Press Council of India

[Press Release dt. 25-11-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

Press Council of India while considering the communication received from Election Commission of India advises the print media to refrain from publishing article which in any way whatsoever predict the results of the elections during the prohibited period under Section 126A to ensure free, fair and transparent election.

In the council’s view, the prediction of election results in any form or manner by way of predictions, etc. by astrologers, tarot readers, political analysts or by any persons during the prohibited period is a violation of the spirit of Section 126A which aims to prevent constituencies still going to polls from being influenced in their voting by such predictions about the prospects of the various political parties.

Print media is hereby advised not to publish/publicise any such article of results, during the prohibited period i.e. between 7 am on 28-10-2020 and 6.30 pm on 07-11-2020 in the current General Election to the State Legislative Assembly of Bihar, 2020 to ensure free and fair elections.

Hence, in view of the above, newspapers/ news agencies are advised to adhere to the above mentioned time frame before publishing the article of elections results, etc.


Press Council of India

[Dt. 20-10-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

After the media persons were prevented from reporting the development in  and around Hathras after the Hathras Gang Rape case, the Editors Guild of India has issued a statement condemning the same.

“The Editors Guild Of India condemns the manner in which the law enforcement agencies of the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Yogi Adityanath, have prevented media persons from reporting on developments in and around Hathras after a brutal assault on a woman leading to her death and the hurried cremation of her body by the authorities without the presence of the family of the deceased.”

The statement also shows displeasure over the way the government has tapped the telephones of journalists engaged in covering the Hathras incidents.

“Worse, the tapped conversation of the journalists has been selectively leaked, leading to a social media calumny against them.”

The Guild states that such conduct of the law enforcement agencies of the Uttar Pradesh government undermines and obstructs the functioning of the media. It has, hence, demanded that the government creates conditions in Hathras that do not obstruct journalists in any way.

The statement also states,

“Hathras is the worst such case in the scale of interference but the Guild also notes with concern that such attacks against the media are becoming part of a growing trend seen in recent months, in which a few other state governments have also indulged in such harassment of journalists.”

Read the statement here


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Hathras Gang-Rape | “Shocked by reports of events that led to victim’s cremation”, All HC orders registration of Suo Motu PIL

Gang Rape & brutality of 19-year-old women belonging to Scheduled Caste in Hathras district, UP: NHRC takes suo motu cognizance

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Hot Off The PressNews

The Council has noted with distress that coverage of the alleged suicide by a Film actor by many media outlets is in violation of the Norms of Journalistic Conduct and, therefore, advises the Media to adhere to the Norms framed by the Press Council of India.

The Media should not narrate the story in a manner so as to induce the general public to believe in the complicity of the person indicted. Publishing information based on gossip about the line of investigation by the official agencies on the crime committed is not desirable. It is not advisable to vigorously report crime related issues on a day to day basis and comment on the evidence without ascertaining the factual matrix. Such reporting brings undue pressure in the course of fair investigation and trial.

The Media is advised to refrain from giving excessive publicity to the victim, witnesses, suspects and accused as it will amount to invasion of their privacy rights. Identification of witnesses by the Media needs to be avoided as it endangers them to come under pressure from the accused or his associates as well as investigating agencies.

The Media is advised not to conduct its own parallel trial or foretell the decision to avoid pressure during investigation and trial.

Further, the reporting of the alleged suicide by the actor by some of the newspapers is also in violation of the norms formulated by the Council for reporting on suicide. The norm prohibits publishing stories about suicide prominently and advises the media not to unduly repeat such stories. The media is expected not to use language which sensationalise or normalises suicides or presents it as a constructive solution to the problems. The Media is advised not to use sensational headlines or use photographs, video-footage or social media links while reporting on suicide cases.


Press Council of India

[Press Release dt. 28-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Suresh Kumar Kait, J., while addressing a matter with regard to the Order issued by Delhi Police on 8-07-2020 in respect to the arrests being made in the Delhi Riots matter, made a suggestion that,

“media being the fourth pillar of democracy, news should be clear after verifying the facts so that no prejudice is caused to anyone or hatred is spread among communities in this country.”

Court refused to quash the order issue dby Delhi Police, wherein “arrests of some Hindu youth had led to a degree of resentment among the Hindu community” and therefore, subordinate officers should take due care and precaution while arresting any person.

Petitioners were aggrieved by the issuance of the respondent 4’s order to the investigating officers and teams while the investigation pertaining to the carnage that took place in North East Delhi was still underway.

Indian Express had reported the said order by an Article titled —

‘RESENTMENT IN HINDUS ON ARRESTS, TAKE CARE: SPECIAL CP TO PROBE TEAMS’ on 15-07-2020.

Article pertained to the ongoing investigation, arrests and prosecution by the Delhi Police in cases relating to the carnage in North East Delhi and inter-alia reports that order dated 08-07-2020 addressed to subordinate officers heading probe teams and signed by respondent 4 cites an “intelligence input” about the riot-related arrests of “some Hindu youth from Chand Bagh and Khajuri Khas areas of Northeast Delhi” and goes on to state that arrests of “some Hindu youth” has led to a “degree of resentment among the Hindu community”.

The Order proceeds to direct that “due care and precaution” must be taken while making such arrests.

Adding to the above, it states that “community representatives are alleging that these arrests are made without any evidence and are even insinuating that such arrests are being made for some personal reasons.

The order goes on to name two Muslim men and states: “In the same area, resentment among Hindu community is also reported for alleged police inaction” against the two, “who are alleged to have been involved in mobilizing members of the Muslim community during Delhi riots and anti-CAA protests”.

It has also been stated that direct message has been conveyed to the subordinate officer that due care be taken in case of arresting the Hindu People and no precaution may be taken while arresting the Muslim people.

High court while parting with the decision made it clear that the IOs of the cases shall be dealing in accordance with the law and shall not take into consideration instructions vide order dated 08-07-2020, whereby it was stated that the evidences must be discussed with Special PPs assigned to each case

While issuing any instructions especially in such type of situation, the respondents shall take due care, however, in any eventuality, instructions may be issued within the powers mentioned under Section 36 CrPC.

Bench also noted that the electronic/print media has published some news which was against the letter and spirit of the Order dated 08-07-2020 issued by respondent 4.

Further, the Court also noted that 535 Hindus and 513 Muslims have been charge-sheeted in all cases. Thus, no prejudice has been caused pursuant to letter dated 08.07.2020

Hence, the Court suggested that media being the fourth pillar of democracy, news should be clear after verifying the facts so that no prejudice is caused to anyone or hatred is spread among communities in this country.

Investigating authorities must not create any bias on the basis of any instruction issued by the senior officers which are not recognized under any law.

In view of the above petition was disposed of. [Sahil Parvez v. GNCTD, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 971, decided on 07-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of Vikram Nath, CJ and P.B. Pardiwala, J., while addressing an issue with regard to the live streaming of the Court proceedings held that a committee to work out the modalities for the said purpose has been constituted comprising of two Judges of this Court.

A law student raised the issue with regard to the Live Streaming/Open Access of the Court proceedings and in the public interest Gujarat High court should work out the necessary modalities for the said purpose.

Bench on perusal of the material on record, stated that to observe the  requirement of an open Court proceedings, members of the public should be allowed to view the Court hearings through video conferencing except the proceedings ordered for the reasons recorded in writing to be conducted in-camera.

Right to Know and receive information is one of the facts of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and for which reason the public is entitled to witness the Court proceedings.

As, the above-stated Court proceedings involve the issue impacting the public at large or a section of the public.

Bench appreciated the efforts of the 3rd year law student appeared in person in the public interest.

Further, in line of the above-stated observations, Bench stated that to work out the modalities to facilitate the people at large including the media to watch the virtual hearing, Committee of two Judges of this High Court has been constituted pursuant to Standing Committee’s decision on 25-06-2020.

In the near future, a report of the committee is expected after which to allow access to the public at large including the media persons of print digital and electronic media shall be finalized.

Petition was disposed of in view of the above. [Pruthvirajsinh Zala v. Gujarat High Court, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 1055 , decided on 20-07-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that a journalist was allegedly killed by sand mafias in the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh on the 19th June, 2020. Reportedly, the victim Shubham Tripathy was working as a correspondent with a Hindi Daily, Kampu Mail. He had been reporting about illegal sand mining in the district and had apprehended threat to his life from them. Reportedly, his opponents had also lodged a complaint against him with the District Magistrate.

The Commission has issued a notice to the Government of Uttar Pradesh through its Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police calling for a detailed report in the matter. The State Government has also been directed to get an impartial enquiry into the matter by an independent agency, preferably the State CB CID and to ensure safety of the family of the victim and the witnesses in the matter. The call details and other forensic evidences gathered during inquiry to be preserved as the Commission might call them during consideration of the case. The response is expected, within 4 weeks.

The Commission has observed that the news report has mentioned that in many cases the media persons have been targeted by the anti-social elements and in most of the cases no action against the culprits has been taken by the police authorities.

In the democratic system of Government, the media is considered as its fourth pillar which cannot be allowed to be victimised by the anti social elements in such a cruel manner. It is the duty of the state to provide adequate safety and security to the media persons who in the public interest, keep taking great risks to highlight the illegal activities prevailing in the society. The death of Shubham Tripathy in this case is a matter of concern for the Commission and also an issue involving violation of human rights.


National Human Rights Commission

Press Release dt. 26-06-2020

Hot Off The PressNews

Taking note of provisions regarding “Fake News” mentioned in the Media Policy 2020 whereby Government of Jammu and Kashmir authorises its officers to decide the content of print, electronic and other forms of media for “fake news” and proceed against journalists and media organisations, the Press Council of India has moved suo motu as the matter affects the functioning of the press.

Comments in the stated matter have been called from the Chief Secretary the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and Secretary, Information Department, Department of Information and Public Relations, Government of Jammu and Kashmir.

PRESS RELEASE


Press Council of India

Press Release dt. 16-06-2020

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dinesh Kumar Singh, J. was hearing a petition filed under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter mentioned as CrPC) in the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad pertaining to the complaint filed by the petitioner. 

The petition has been filed by The Group Editor, The Local Editor, and The Press Reporter, Sahara India Mass Communication, Lucknow impugning the orders of summoning by Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in Case No. 221 of 2010, Ramveer Upadhaiya v. Jaibrat Roy. The case was regarding a news article published by Rashtriya Sahara on 11-09-2009, based on a letter written by Mr Krishan Gopal on behalf of the Chief Minister to Mr J.N. Chamber and a subsequent letter to Mr Navneet Sehgal asking for inquiry over-demanding of Rupees 10 lakhs by respondent 2 (Minister) from Mr R.K. Kashyap, Chief Engineer, Western Electricity, failure in fulfillment of what led to his transfer and his suspension subsequently. Mr. Kashyap later in 2 letters denied allegations over the minister and withdrew his role in the letter writing. 

The petitioner submitted that the article published in ‘Rashtriya Sahara’ on 11-09-2009 was preceded by a similar kind of article published in daily Hindi newspaper ‘Deshbandhu’ and it contained statements made by several political leaders. Later, Mr O.P. Rai, on behalf of the complainant sent a letter to Rashtriya Sahara stating that Mr Kashyap has not given any complaint against the minister. The same was published on 22-10-2009.

The respondent submitted that the petitioners have published the aforesaid news item with an intention to malign the image and reputation of respondent 2 and of the State Government.

The Court held that it is the duty of the press to expose the government and its functionaries. If the press is put under the threat of prosecution, it can not perform its duty and thus the rights granted under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India is violated. And also the Court took note of the article published in another Hindi daily ‘Deshbandhu’ and if the newspaper had not published the article it would violate its duty. The Court also held that the complaint on behalf of the minister has should be filed through a Public Prosecutor in the Court of Session.

The Court opined that to constitute the offence of defamation under Section 499 of Penal Code, 1860 there has to be imputation, and it must have been made in the manner with intention of causing harm or having reason to believe that this imputation will harm the reputation of a person. It was held that the article is not defamatory and that the complaint is not maintainable before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate and hence the petition is allowed. [Ranvijay Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Case No. 284 of 2013, decided on 20-12-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

Commission has noted that NaMo TV/Content TV is a platform service offered by DTH operators offered to the BJP on a paid basis.

It has been confirmed that there has not been any pre-certification of the content being displayed on NaMo TV/Content TV, by the MCMC Committee.

As NaMo TV/Content is sponsored by a political party, all recorded programmes of a political party, all recorded programmes of political contents displayed on the channel/platform would be covered under the purview of the Commission’s order dated 15-04-2004 issued in pursuance of the order dated 13-4-2004 of Supreme Court in Secy., Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v. Gemini TV, (2004) 5 SCC 714. Accordingly, all political advertisements and all recorded programmes with political contents are mandatorily required to be pre-certified by MCMC before telecasting/displaying.

Further, any political publicity materials/contents, being displayed on electronic media without the requisite certification from the competent authority (MCMC in this case) should be removed immediately and any political content shall only be permitted strictly in accordance with ECI instructions in this regard.


[Order Dated: 11-04-2019]

Election Commission of India

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by media, Supreme Court restrained the telecasting of images and videos of the minor rape victims at a shelter home in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district by media.

The bench comprising of MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ, directed the media not to interview the victims and stated that “they cannot be compelled to relive trauma again and again.” The bench added that the images or videos should not be published in blurred or morphed form as well.

Hence, in this regard the Supreme Court bench has issued notices to the Bihar Government, Women and Child Development Ministry and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

[Source: Hindustan Times]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Hearing a public interest litigation, a Bench comprising of BP Dharmadhikari and ZA Haq, JJ. directed the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to consider directing the media to refrain from using the word Dalit when referring to members of Scheduled Castes.

The Court was hearing a petition filed against the use of the word in official government documents. The petitioner informed the Court that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has already advised the Central Government to refrain from using any term apart from “Scheduled Caste” when referring to persons falling under the category. The Court was also informed that the State Government is also deliberating on taking appropriate action on the same.

The petitioner’s advocate then pointed out that similar directions to refrain from using the word were yet to be issued to the media. The Court then directed the Central Government to consider the question of issuing such direction to the media and take a suitable decision upon it within next six weeks. [Pankaj alias Lalitji Meshram v. Joint Secretary, Public Interest Litigation No. 114 of 2016, decided on 06-06-2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had amended the Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists (as on 02-04-2018) for regulation of fake news, which was later withdrawn (as on 03-04-2018), after an order for cancellation from the President’s office. After top editors and opposition parties accused the government of trying to control the media, the President’s office, said that such question of checking of fake news should be left to the media watchdog, i.e. The Press Council of India.

However, this amendment was made in the wake of the increasing instances of fake news in various mediums including print and electronic media. As per the amendment, on receiving any complaints apropos instances of fake news, the same had to be referred to the Press Council of India (PCI) if it pertains to print media & to News Broadcasters Association (NBA) if it relates to electronic media, for determination of the news item being fake or not. These regulating agencies were expected to complete the determination within 15 days. Once the complaint was registered, the correspondent/journalist whoever created and/or propagated the fake news, if accredited, would have had the accreditation suspended till such time the determination was made by the regulating agencies (mentioned above) regarding the fake news. The Accreditation Committee of the PIB consisting of representatives of both PCI and NBA would have been invariably reached out to (as per the amendment) for validating any accreditation request of any news media agency.

In case of any confirmation of publication/telecast of fake news having been confirmed by any of the above mentioned agencies, the accreditation (as per the amendment) was to be suspended for

  • a period of 6 months in the 1st violation and
  • for 1 year in the case of 2nd violation and
  • in the event of 3rd violation it would have been cancelled permanently.

Furthermore, the regulatory agencies were, while examining the requests seeking accreditation, supposed to examine whether the `Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ and `Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards’ prescribed by the PCI and NBA respectively are adhered to by the journalists as part of their functioning. The amendment made it obligatory for the journalists to abide by the said guidelines.

[Press Release no. 1527401, dt. 03-04-2018]

Ministry of Information & Broadcasting