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Media Trial is toll on Fair Trial

In the biggest democratic country like India, the administrative bodies those including legislative, executive and the judiciary are viewed as the three pillars of the constitution while media is referred to be the fourth pillar of this Country. Media plays vital role as it is that medium of communication which reaches a large audience at a particular time which holds the power to store and deliver the informational data. It is that observing body which performs like a watchdog of the functionaries of the government and society and lead the defaulters into light.

‘Trial by media’ or ‘media trial’ has made its way in the era of technology. Media plays a significant role in opinion building which often has adverse impact on the fair trial. The   newspapers and televisions concentrating on the reputation of government and society by generating large scale perception of inconvenience or resentment or chastity before the concerned court can actually pronounce judgement.

Present scenario

In view of Article 19 (1) (a)[1] of the Constitution[2], media rights have been recognized as one of the fundamental rights and under Article 21[3] of the Constitution the defendant is subject to a counterclaim against the fundamental right to continue free and fair trial. Creating a balance between the two fundamental rights is inevitable and the time has come for courts to provide appropriate guidelines for media reporting (electronic and print) which are less judgmental courts. And where these rights and rights of equality are not equal and are not mutually exclusive, the Courts are left with only one option to issue equitable measures and judgments based on re-equity that is made when both rights are given equal status in the Constitution Scheme.

The Constitution of India has various powers to enforce the prohibition and control of the media under section 19 (2)[4] of the Constitution which is inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States. It was recently also noted that news outlets have entered into an agreement with firms / corporate houses for not reporting and concealing factual facts and anything against them in order to be considered immoral. Therefore, if we are bound by two fundamental rights due to overcrowding in a critical case of restraint and self-regulation it must be effectively implemented and those who violate the fundamental code of conduct must be disposed of under the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 measurement strategies based on re-equity where both rights are given equal status in the Constitutional Scheme.

Talking about reasonable restrictions and the module of these news channels, the media should to stick to it and not for the sake of TRP provide false or incomplete news and sensationalize the news. Since these media platforms runs through advertisement and the channel having most number of TRP is likely to be the most viewed channel, so they must stick to certain work ethics and provide a healthy environment because people do believe what they see on these channels. The present media has been condemned for the violation of the rights just for professional gain and to sensationalize the issue in the case of SSR case, Hathras rape and murder case, Ayushi murder case or the Sarvjeet Singh case.

Right to Fair Trial

The conflict has arisen between a fair trial and a media trial as things go awry between policies that rely on free publication and free trials in which the public has a vested interest. Freedom of the press from democratic papers to be included in the day’s questions, which touches them. This is a confirmation of investigative journalism and campaign. The right to a trial is the sole right of every person within the borders of India under sections 14 and 20, 21 and 22 of the Constitution[5].

Equally, the “Right to Fair Trials”, that is, uninvited trial of foreign pressures is recognized as the basis for justice in India. The provisions aimed at obtaining this right are contained under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 and under Articles 129 and 215 (Contempt Jurisdiction-Power of the Supreme Court and High Court to punish the defendant for Indifferent Separation) of the Indian Constitution. In particular, the media is limited to discussions or publication of matters relating to the suitability of a pending case in Court. A journalist can be charged with contempt of court if he or she publishes anything that would impede the ‘appropriate trial’ or that interferes with the impartiality of the Court to determine the cause of its fairness, whether the court proceedings are criminal or civil proceedings.

Critical analysis

In the era of technology and the advancements made under mass communication, the everyday news started being published and reaching a large audience. The journalist became the front line workers to provide us with all the news covering the globe at national as well as international level. Also during the Covid pandemic era, these news channels and media were the only source which connected the government and society with each other and worked day and night without thinking about themselves. The prime minister Sri Narendra Modi addressed the people through these platforms and revealed his strategies.

The media is rightly called as a ‘magic bullet’ because it influences the mind of the society. Thus with rights there comes certain duties as well. The media is required to

  • Provide the truth
  • Do not fool audience by fake news just to gain TRP
  • Do not violate the right to privacy of society and government
  • To follow the reasonable restrictions

Whether the media or the press has exceeded its legal limits is a never-ending question. Recently, the Andhra Pradesh High Court banned all types of media, including social media, from publishing anything related to an FIR filed by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Guntur. Freedom of the press was also upheld in the Supreme Court in a case in which it barred Sudarshan TV from broadcasting its Bindas Bol program “UPSC Jihad” on the grounds that it wanted to insult the public[6].

Our media has been criticized time to time and various judgements have been passed by various courts of our country regarding media and trials by them:

  1. True reporting on crime and media coverage is not the same. The ‘trial’ of the media occurs when the media begins to carry out the same process, and affirms its view as a valid view, in addition to those legally entrusted with the task of investigating or judging. Reporting leaked information in an ongoing investigation. if it hurts the defendant is also unpopular as seen in Romila Thapar v Union of India[7].
  2. In Navin Jindal (2014) the gag order was rejected but in Navin Jindal (2015), and in Swantantra Kumar a limited order was passed. These are examples of the Delhi High Court issuing limited restrictions to prevent pending proceedings (including investigations) from media verification. However, none of this was a global ban on reporting issues, and orders were issued only after reviewing what was published, and limited to certain issues after hearing the publisher[8].
  3. In Brij Bhushan v State NCT of Delhi the Supreme Court held that the previous ban on the magazine was an unreasonable restriction on media freedom[9].
  4. As it has grown to the right and the media’s role in informing citizens, the Supreme Court has repeatedly warned of media cases that could disrupt the administration of justice. In the case of RK Anand v Registrar, the Delhi High Court, it has been stated in some way that free speech does not include the right to publish any kind of report on a matter before a court or to perform sensitive functions in a pending case[10].
  5. Significant differences are captured by the terms used in Sidharth Vashisht’s judgment, “educational discourse” and “media experimentation”. When people are informed of news and ideas, it is an unstoppable official statement, no matter how appealing to others. However, when the media directly or indirectly raises a major issue in court (often referred to as a sub judice rule), they enter the state of the courts. In criminal trials, when the media announces or creates a public opinion of guilt or innocence, it undermines the presumption of innocence, a privilege as important as free speech. It is therefore a “trial” by the media, that it is inappropriate and not allowed to hold your hostage[11].


Although the Media is the fourth pillar of Indian Democracy and under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution it has a fundamental right, at the same time it cannot be allowed to make mistakes in its domain under the concept of freedom of speech and expression to the point of decriminalization to pass a law regulating the unrestricted power of the media.

The press is a public service and, therefore, accountable to the community as a whole. Press freedom means not only freedom from unnecessary restraints, but also freedom for the purpose of advancing certain basic concepts enshrined in the constitution. It is agreed by all that press is an essential organ of democratic set up, an important vehicle of communication and a vital instrument in the creation of public opinion. As such it is necessary that the media persons should regard their profession as a trust to serve public interest[12]



  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVO6rFyG62Q&ab_channel=LawSikho
  2. https://thewire.in/media/press-freedom-trial-by-media-supreme-court
  3. https://www.mondaq.com/india/human-rights/262924/media-trial-versus-free-and-fair-administration-of-justice-need-for-guidelines
  4. The Constitution of India
  5. The constitution of the USA
  6. http://www.lawjournals.org/
  7. https://www.newslaundry.com/2019/10/31/indian-media-declared-sarvjeet-singh-a-pervert-four-years-later-the-court-acquitted-him
  8. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Trial_by_media
  9. https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/media-trials-india/

[1] Constitution of India, 1950

[2] 1950

[3] Constitution of India, 1950

[4] Ibid.

[5] 1950

[6] Raghav Tankha. Where does press freedom end and trial by media begin? 30 Sep. 2020. https://thewire.in/media/press-freedom-trial-by-media-supreme-court

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12]  Dr. Sumayya H, Media trial and Indian legal system, http://www.lawjournals.org/

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