The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and the states to respond within two weeks to a questionnaire relating to laying down of guidelines on issues including media briefing and subsequent coverage in cases of encounter deaths, terror and extra-judicial killings.
A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana got irked when it found out from the records that the Centre and most of the states have not responded to the questionnaire prepared by lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan, who has been assisting the court as an amicus curiae and asked them to file their response “positively” within two weeks.
Besides the Centre and the states, the Union territories and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) are also parties to the 1999 PIL filed by NGO, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The bench, which has now put up the matter for further hearing on March 22, has been mulling the idea of framing guidelines on the issues including whether the media briefing by the police and subsequent reporting of crimes and alleged criminals hamper the fundamental rights of the accused.
The question whether “media trial” hampers the judicial trial is to be dealt with by the court. The apex court had earlier expressed its concern over the issue, saying, “Can a parallel process of trial by media be permitted when it can trample upon fundamental rights of an accused and interfere with free and fair decision-making?”
Terming “media trial” as “serious”, the court had said that it may consider framing guidelines on the matter. The court was hearing a petition, filed by NGO PUCL, which, along with NHRC, had also suggested the setting up a separate and independent probe agency under NHRC or the state human rights commissions to probe every encounter killings.
It had also expressed its disapproval to parading of arrested persons by the police before the media, and also release of statements of accused made under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to the media.
The court is also dealing with the question of power of the police to brief the media in criminal cases during investigation and trial.