Eight former top police officers of Maharashtra, including the ex Director General of Police (DGP) of Maharashtra and former commissioners of Mumbai Police have moved a public interest litigation (PIL) before the Bombay High Court seeking restraining orders against ‘media trial’ in the Sushant Singh Rajput Death case.
The petitioners include former DGPs P S Pasricha, K Subramaniam, D Shivanandan, Sanjeev Dayal, Satish Chandra Mathur, and former Commissioners of Mumbai Police Mahesh N Singh, Dhananjay N Jadhav and former Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief K P Raghuvanshi.
The PIL stated, “A section of TV Channels has been trying to influence the course of investigation being done by Central Agencies through their biased reporting and false propaganda. This has created an air of suspicion in the minds of the general public as to the facts of the case under investigation and also about the Mumbai Police, health services and other support services of the state.”
The plea called out “anchors of some TV channels (that) have been virtually running a vituperative 24×7 campaign against Mumbai Police and its Commissioner, DCP of the zone and other officers by attacking them by name in most unbecoming manner.”
Further emphasising on the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the plea stated it is important in the criminal justice system in India but is “grossly violated by way of the media conducting its own trial and creating an atmosphere of prejudice.”
The PIL further said that the “irresponsible” coverage is affecting Mumbai Police’s image in the minds of the public. It stated that the “media trial” has resulted in a “parallel investigation” done by private individuals, rendering opinions, exposing material witnesses and divulging crucial pieces of evidence before being probed by investigating agencies.
The plea stated, “The irresponsible and maliciously false propaganda is likely to erode public confidence in the institution of Police in particular and the law enforcement apparatus of the state in general. The Mumbai Police is one of the oldest police forces of India and it has always enjoyed a very high reputation for professional competence and public service. Any malicious and irresponsible attempt to run it down is, therefore, not in public interest.
In view of this, the PIL sought various directions to the Central Government, Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association, News Broadcasting Standards Authority and state government to issue guidelines to media houses to refrain from publishing and circulating any false, derogatory and scandalous comments, social media posts, news stories, which would allegedly jeopardize reputation of the Police.
The PIL also sought the reporting of crimes and criminal investigations to be carried out in a balanced and objective manner and not to turn it into a media trial and “vilification campaign” against the Police and investigators. Media organisations should indulge in ethical reporting and responsible journalism rather than sensationalism for Television Rating Point (TRPs), the plea said.
The PIL sought directions to the government and media regulators to lay down guidelines stating mode and manner of covering any pending investigation cases including judicial proceedings, particularly applicable to Sushant Singh Rajput death case.
The PIL was filed on Monday through Crawford Bayley & Company and senior counsel Milind Sathe and advocate Chetan Kapadia and sought an urgent hearing from the Court.
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