The Centre, while responding to PILs against “irresponsible coverage” by news channels in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that it did not seek to justify the media trial; however, there were sufficient regulatory mechanism that oversees electronic media. The Centre said it did not see any reason to put in place additional guidelines as sought by the petitioners.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh was responding to a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni, which had on Monday asked the Centre why it does not have a statutory mechanism for electronic media similar to the Press Council of India, which regulates the print media in the country. The court had asked why the electronic media should have an ‘open hand’ in its coverage.
The court, referring to absence of action over media trial, had said, “There are so many orders passed by the Supreme Court. Nobody cares.”
On Wednesday, ASG Singh said, “We do not seek to justify or support media trial. There is an existing statutory and regulatory framework which covers the electronic media. As per guidelines, there are certain stages where the complaints are considered before coming to the government. There are adequate safeguards and remedies.”
Singh referred to several Supreme Court judgments and said it has been held that freedom of press was not only an essential prerequisite of democracy but ‘mother of all liberties”.
He submitted that since Parliament had not enacted any law controlling reporting of issues by the media and the apex court had time and again observed that there was reasonable regulation on the media, the High Court was not open to lay down guidelines for the reportage.
Singh said the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act provided sufficient provisions under the Programme Code to keep a check on electronic media and additional mechanism was not required.
The division bench is hearing multiple PILs related to media coverage on Rajput’s death, including one by eight former senior police officers of Maharashtra, seeking restraining orders against ‘media trial’ in the Rajput case.
Singh will continue his arguments and thereafter respondent broadcasters’ associations and news channels will make their submissions during the next hearing on Friday.
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