This article is written by Samridhi Chhabra, a student of UILS, Panjab University                                 

“The nation wants to know, Gor se dekhiye iss chehre ko” a number of the words and rhetorics often heard by the general public from the anchors and journalists influences us to believe their words and opinions about a difficulty or an individual even before the person has been convicted by the particular courts. “The media is the most powerful entity within the world.  it’s the facility to form the innocent guilty and to form the guilty innocent, which is powerful because they will control the minds of the masses “quoted by MalcomX. 

Rightly quoted, Media has been considered as the fourth pillar of democracy and plays a vital role in shaping democracy. In an exceedingly progressive world that we live in, People’s daily lifestyle starts with the influence of the media be it in sort of Newspapers, Television channels or social media and ends with it. It can Align or malign one’s reputation and influence other’s minds with the power of its pen and its mic. it’s often seen that these news channels become a public court even before the accused becomes convicted.

The media sometimes plays havoc with the public’s emotions and sentiments by specializing in the scandalous news in an eye fixed-catching manner. Not only this, but the media sometimes hypes the news for its personal benefits just like the Television Rating Points referred to as its TRP.

 When Does Media Trial Happens?

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 broad view of the case irrespective of the choice within the actual court of law. During most high-profile cases, the media is usually accused of making a public atmosphere with a lynch crowd that not only makes the case unbearable but also means without the end result of the case, within the spotlight the suspect is already guilty and that they won’t be able to live their entire lives without much public scrutiny. There are reasons why the eye of the media around certain cases is sensationally high. the explanations are: Cases could involve children or they might be so horrific or gruesome that the media considers it necessary to sensationalize such cases. The case may well be of a number one celebrity either as a victim or as an accused. In cases where big celebrities are involved, the influence of the media could drastically change the opinion of the so-called “fans” of such influential celebrities.

 Role of Article 19(1): Freedom of Speech and Expression

There is a marginalized difference between accused and convict and that they ignore the aspect and influences their opinion on the general public Although Freedom of press and Right to express and be heard may be a constitutional right provided to everyone and that they have full freedom to exercise their opinion on the subject but the scenario takes a turn when because of the powerful influence of those media houses and their tactics they’re ready to convince and prejudice public and it can include the judges too. Humans have a bent to varying their opinions and outlook when shared a strong opinion. Thus it can harm the accused person of getting rightful justice within the actual courtroom. The constitution of India guarantees its citizen Right to freedom of speech and expression as per Article 19(1) and 19(2). It means the proper to talk and to precise one’s opinion by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or in the other manner. It thus includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek out and receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of its frontiers. the liberty of expression thus includes the liberty of the propagation of ideas, their publication and circulation. Similarly, it’s thus settled law that the proper to freedom and expression in article 19(1)(a) includes the freedom of the press. This liberty has been held to be one amongst the good bulwarks of liberty and may never be restrained but by the despotic government [1].

 A journalist has the correct under article 19(1)(a) to publish as journalist a faithful report of the proceedings witnessed and heard within the court. However in certain matters like the commission of the offence of rape, unnecessary publicity may result in the miscarriage of justice. The apex court in State of Maharashtra v Rajendra jawanmal Gandhi[2] did hold that an effort by press electronic media or public agitation was the very antithesis of rule of law. within the present scenario, there are plenty of such famous cases like Sushant singh rajput’s suicide case wherein the prime accused has filed a plea before supreme court for the media trial being initiated and defamation being caused to her and her family. Also in cases like Jessica lal murder case, Aarushi murder case the Talwars were declared murderers by media even before the judgment. Another example is of Asaram Bapu. Though just charged under Protection of youngsters from Sexual offences Act, 2012, he was declared guilty by the media. Media portrays the accused in such some way, by using assertive form of writing, which the general public is created to believe the story of the media. In Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras[3]  Justice Patanjali Sikri observed that: “Freedom of Speech and of the Press lay at the muse of all democratic organizations, for without free political discussion no public education, so essential for the correct functioning of the strategy of popular Government, is possible

Immunity under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

Under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, publications under free trials are sheltered against contempt proceedings. However, any publication which interferes with or obstructs or tends to obstruct any proceeding, be it civil or criminal, and the course of justice, which is actually a pending proceeding, constitutes the contempt of court. It has been termed as contempt because some of the acts which are published before the verdict given by the court, can mislead the public and affect the rights of the accused of a fair trial. Such kind of publications may be related to his previous convictions or the confession he made in front of the police or merely character assassination of the accused. 

Judiciary’s Take on Media Trials

The Supreme Court has held that a trial by media has affected a number of cases is the very anti- thesis of the rule of law and has led to the miscarriage of justice. In M.P. Lohia v West Bengal[4]  and in State v Mohd. Afzal and Ors.[5] The Supreme Court cautioned for publication of issues which was prejudiced. It deprecated the media for interfering with the administration of justice by publishing one sided articles pertaining to merits of cases pending within the Courts.

In the very famous case of Aarushi Talwar’s Murder, [6]2013, the media had declared who was guilty and who wasn’t even before the particular trial had begun. There have been mass protests and therefore the public had gone into hysterics over the fact that her own parents were the explanation of her death. But, this is often also an immunity given to the press, albeit the media had gone berserk in this case. Such publications have been known to have gone unchecked without the interference of the legislature. [7]

This had been appropriately indicated in R. K. Anand v. Delhi High Court[8]where the Court was of the view that the impact which the media causes makes an un-biased trial impossible. In Express Newspaper v. Union of India, the Court observed that there’s every possibility of an unbridled liberty to become a license resulting to anarchy and disorder. Therefore, the so-called media verdict emerging from media trial affects the administration of justice.

In Re: P. C. Sen[9] the real risk of prejudicial remarks by media was expressed and also raided the priority about the impacts such comments may wear the mind of the judges.

Rao Harnarain v. Gumori Ram[10], where the Court deplored the practice of media trial and observed that journalist cannot attempt to influence the judges. Though judiciary has not clearly accepted that the judges are influenced by media trial but has shown concern about its potential effects on the judge’s subconscious..

In the case of  Sushil Sharma v. The State (Delhi Administration and Ors.[11]), 1996, there was little evidence that the accused had murdered his partner. However, while the case was still pending in the court, the media had started portraying the accused as a murderer and was capable of adjusting the views of the general public even before the outcome of the case. It was held by the High Court of Delhi that the conviction of any person would solely be supported on the facts of the case and not because the media wanted the person to be declared as guilty. The charges also have to be framed against the person accused based on the evidence available on record and not supported on what the media portrays the person to be. 


“Where the press is free and each man is able to read, all is safe.” Thomas Jefferson

Jawaharlal Nehru was also of the same view and even. In some cases Media’s focus and intervention has been a boon to the nation rather than a bane such as the case of helpless migrant labourers who had to move to their native villages and became jobless and homeless due to the pandemic situation.  In the instant case the media helped them by covering their grievances and the Supreme Court took Suo moto Cognizance and ordered the Centre and State government respectively to take measure of transporting them to their places and and provisions for employment schemes for them and for this media has to be credited but when powers are used ignoring its limits it happens to create a havoc. Often these media houses are funded by mighty political parties and their representatives which happens to focus on their opposition parties failure and in defaming them resulting to a biased and partial information. Thus it would be in a greater interest of the society if media sticks to unbiased facts and un prejudiced information.



[1] The Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776)

[2] SLP (Crl.) No.1773/96) 

[3] 1950 SCR 594

[4] SLP(Crl.)No.1829/04

[5] 2003 VIIAD Delhi 1



[8] 2009) 8 SCC 106.

[9] 1970 SC 1821

[10] AIR 1958 P H 273.

[11] (1997) 1 SCC 133 R

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