The court, however, refrained from taking action against the news channels and instead issued guidelines for reporting ongoing investigations.
The Bombay High Court today held that media trials violate the Programme Code under the Cable TV Act so the press should observe restraint in discussions about ongoing police investigations lest it prejudice the rights of the accused and the witnesses, Live Law reported.
The court was delivering its verdict, reserved on November 6, on a batch of petitions against the “media trial” in the case of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. The petitions seeking a restraining order against the "media trial" were filed by eight former police officers in Maharashtra, activists, lawyers, and NGOs.
Recalling an earlier observation that media trials interfere with police investigations, the court held that some of the reporting by TV news channels Republic TV and Times Now on the Mumbai police’s handling of the case of Rajput’s death was "prima facie contemptuous".
The court, however, refrained from taking action against the channels and proceeded to issue guidelines for reporting of ongoing investigations. It said the Press Council of India guidelines will be applicable to electronic media as well. “Press/media ought to avoid discussions, debates relating to criminal investigation, and should confine only to informative reports in such matters in the public interest,” the court ruled.
According to Live Law, the court noted that publishing a confession alleged to have been made by an accused as if it was admissible evidence without letting the public know about its inadmissibility should be avoided. “Investigative agencies are entitled to keep secrecy about the ongoing investigation and they are under no obligation to divulge information,” it declared.
Laying down the guidelines that TV news channels should follow while reporting on suicide, the court ruled that they should avoid suggesting the person was of weak character, reconstructing crime scenes, interviewing potential witnesses, leaking sensitive and confidential information.