Court to Republic TV: #ArrestRhea, is that news?
Bombay High Court on Wednesday demanded to know from Republic TV if asking viewers who all should be arrested in a case that is being investigated and infringing upon a person’s rights qualified as “investigative journalism”.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni was referring to the channel “#ArrestRhea” campaign and its reports on the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
The court also asked the channel’s lawyer, Malvika Trivedi, why Republic TV broadcast photos of Sushant’s body and speculated on whether the actor’s death was a case of suicide or homicide.
“The grievance is regarding #ArrestRhea. Why is this part of your channel news?” the bench said. “When a case is under investigation and the issue is whether it’s a homicide or a suicide and a channel is saying it is murder, is all this investigative journalism?” it asked.
“We are referring to the basic journalism norms, where a basic etiquette has to be maintained for suicide reporting. No sensational headlines, no constant repeating. You did not even leave the deceased... forget the witnesses,” the bench said.
“You have depicted a lady in such a way that infringes on her rights. This is our prima facie view,” it added.
Sections of the media have been running independent India’s most vitriolic and longest-continuing smear campaign against an individual — actress and Sushant’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty — in an apparent attempt to divert attention from the pandemic and the economic mess and also to aid the BJP’s political agenda against its rivals.
The bench was on Wednesday hearing the final arguments on a bunch of PILs seeking that the media be restrained in the reporting on Sushant’s death. The pleas had also sought that TV news channels be stopped from conducting a media trial.
The bench had asked all parties to clarify if a statutory mechanism was required to regulate the content broadcast by the news channels.
During the hearing on Wednesday, additional solicitor-general Anil Singh, who appeared for the government, said the Centre was in favour of a self-regulatory mechanism for the print and TV media.
The Maharashtra government on Wednesday issued an order withdrawing consent accorded to the members of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise the powers and jurisdiction under an act in the state. According to sources, the move implies that the CBI will not have general consent, accorded by the Maharashtra government by an order on February 22, 1989, to exercise its powers and jurisdiction in the state and will have to get the state government’s permission to probe any matter.
Earlier, the CBI had taken over the Sushant probe from Mumbai police on a recommendation from the Bihar government. Now, the Uttar Pradesh government has advised a CBI investigation into a case of TRP manipulation, another issue Mumbai police are looking into.