The Bombay high court on Friday asked the Maharashtra govt to consider issuing a circular restraining the police from disclosing to the media the identity and photograph of an accused.
A division bench of justices Abhay Oka and AS Chandurkar was hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate Rahul Thakur seeking restraint on trial by media, saying it infringed on the right of an accused to have a fair trial.
The judges have asked the govt to consider issuing a circular which imposes restrictions on the police from giving media briefings or disclosing information acquired during an investigation.
"The quality of investigation will also suffer if a case is constantly under media trial. Even the victim and the witnesses may become scared and that could adversely affect the investigation," remarked justice Oka.
The court also emphasised the need for the police to refrain from disclosing the identity and photograph of an accused. "After the chargesheet is filed, all the details will be in the open. Till then the police should not disclose them," remarked justice Oka.
Government pleader Sandeep Shinde informed the HC that the central govt had already issued a circular that prohibited publishing photographs.
Thakur's PIL has contended that 'overzealous sections of the media' had a tendency to infringe upon fundamental rights like privacy, fair trial and dignity of the citizens. He mainly objects to the police parading an accused before press cameras, using gory pictures and revealing the names of an accused and their relatives. He has said this estranged an accused from the society and attached stigma to his/her.
The PIL cites the example of a teacher who was irreparably defamed after being victimised by a TV sting operation. Thakur also said the death of 16-year-old Adnan Patrawala from Andheri could have been averted if the screening of the media content was proper.
The PIL also opposes the media portraying an accused as a convict even before the trial. Citing Supreme Court judgments, Thakur said the right to freedom of speech was not an absolute right, but was subject to certain restrictions, and that the state could impose certain liberties granted to the media.