Media trial cannot be allowed: SC

Media trial cannot be allowed: SC
New Delhi, Sep 11 | Publish Date: 9/11/2018 1:01:49 PM IST

The press should “draw a line” and strike a balance as media trial of cases cannot be allowed, the Supreme Court said Tuesday while hearing the Muzaffarpur shelter home case in which several women were allegedly raped and abused. The apex court, which was dealing with a plea challenging a Patna High Court order restraining the media from reporting on the investigation into the Muzaffarpur shelter home case, said the issue was not “simple”.

“It is not such a simple matter. The media goes to one complete extreme at a point. There has to be a balance. You cannot say whatever you feel like saying. You cannot have media trials. Tell us where to draw the line,” a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.  Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that the high court had imposed a “blanket ban” on the media in the case. The apex court issued notices to the Bihar government and the CBI, which is probing the case, on the petition and sought their replies by September 18, the next date of hearing.

The bench was also informed that the high court had on August 29 passed an order appointing a lady advocate as an amicus in the case pending there and asked her to visit the place where the alleged victims were staying and interview them for the purpose of their rehabilitation. The top court said the direction asking the amicus to interview these alleged victims was “totally in conflict” with its earlier order, by which it had asked the media not to interview these minor girls.

The bench made it clear that the probe agency should take the assistance of professional counsellors and qualified child psychiatrist to question them.

The bench told Naphade that he would have to assist the court in the matter. When the senior lawyer said there should not be any ban on the media, the bench said “we will see it on September 18.”

Over 30 girls were allegedly raped at the shelter home run by Brajesh Thakur, the chief of a state-funded NGO. The alleged sexual exploitation of the girls was first highlighted in an audit report submitted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to the state’s social welfare department.

The petition was filed by a Patna-based journalist through advocate Fauzia Shakil challenging the high court order restraining the media. The plea, which has sought a stay on the operation of the high court’s August 23 order, has alleged that the order was “patently erroneous” as it amounted to imposing a “blanket ban” on the media reporting in the shelter home case.

The Patna High Court, which has been monitoring the probe in the case, had on August 23 expressed displeasure over the leak of details of the investigation and had asked the media to refrain from publishing it as it could be detrimental to the probe. The plea in the apex court has said that because of the media reporting in the Muzaffarpur case, boys at a juvenile home at Arrah in Bihar had gathered courage and complained to their parents about the physical and sexual abuse going on there.

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