New Delhi, Oct. 21: The Supreme Court today refused to entertain Asaram Bapu’s request to restrain the media from reporting on his trial for alleged rape, brushing aside the self-styled godman’s plea that he was even “willing to go to the gallows” if found guilty.
“When an FIR has been registered, it is natural that the victims or (their) family members go to the media and give their version…. Police officers also give information to the media, how can we then restrain the media from publishing the news?” Chief Justice P. Sathasivam asked senior counsel Vikas Singh, who appeared for Asaram.
The bench of Justices Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi, however, hoped that both the print and electronic media would follow the guidelines the court had laid down on reporting such cases in various earlier judgments.
The court also said Asaram, 72, was free to approach it again if media houses did not adhere to the guidelines.
Asaram, who has a massive following across the country, has been accused of raping his teenaged victim in his Jodhpur ashram on August 15.
The parents of the girl had initially lodged a complaint with Delhi police, who registered a case of rape, but later transferred the matter to Jodhpur police because of jurisdictional reasons.
Asaram’s counsel said the media were sensationalising the case through false reporting, which he claimed was adversely affecting his client’s right to a fair trial. “The media is resorting to all sorts of reports. They are even claiming that the medical reports have confirmed rape, even though there are no medical reports to the effect,” Singh told the court.
“They are doing it only to improve their TRPs which, in turn, will boost their advertisements. I am entitled to a fair and free trial. If I am guilty I am willing to go to the gallows.”
Singh also cited several judgments of the court to argue that the media couldn’t report pre-trial matters that could adversely affect the course of justice.
In the written order that followed, the bench then said: “We have heard Mr Vikas Singh… at length. After taking us through the publication made in certain dailies as well as coverage of electronic media, Mr Vikas Singh has also relied on various earlier decisions of this court…
“After hearing the argument of the learned senior counsel… we are of the view that for the present there is no need to entertain the writ petition.”
But the bench said it hoped and trusted that the media, “both print and electronic”, would “follow” the guidelines the court had passed while deciding on the cases Singh had cited in his plea.
“With the above observation, the writ petition is disposed of,” the judges said, adding the petitioner was “free to approach this court” if the reporting agencies did not follow the guidelines.