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Sting operations by media are fine if in public interest, says Supreme Court

Sting operations by media are fine if in public interest, says Supreme Court
The sting operation had shown collusion between prosecution and defence in the BMW hit-and-run case.Photo: CNN-IBN

The Supreme Court has rejected a plea for putting curbs on the media and television channels from conducting sting operations. It held that any attempt to control and regulate the media from outside was likely to cause more harm than good, the Hindu has reported.

A Bench consisting of Justices BN Agrawal, GS Singhvi and Aftab Alam, in its 175-page judgment in the RK Anand case, said: “It is not our intent here to lay down any reformist agenda for the media. The norms to regulate the media and to raise its professional standards must come from inside.”

Some details: [Link]

On the sting operations conducted by NDTV, the Bench said that despite its faults, the telecast of the programme rendered valuable service to the important public cause to protect and salvage the purity of the course of justice and the operation could not be said to be a trial by the media.

Writing the judgment, Justice Alam said: “The programme may have any other fault or weakness but it certainly did not interfere with or obstruct the due course of the BMW [hit-and-run case] trial. The programme telecast by NDTV showed to the people [the courts not excluded] that a conspiracy was afoot to undermine the BMW trial. What was shown was proved to be substantially true and accurate. The programme was thus clearly intended to prevent the attempt to interfere with or obstruct the due course of the BMW trial.”

On the plea for getting prior permission of the court for conducting such sting operations, the Bench said: “Such a course would not be an exercise in journalism but in that case the media would be acting as some sort of special vigilance agency for the court. On a little consideration, the idea appears to be quite repugnant both from the points of view of the court and the media. It would be a sad day for the court to employ the media for setting its own house in order; and media too would certainly not relish the role of being the snoopers for the court.”

The court said: “Moreover, to insist that a report concerning a pending trial may be published or a sting operation concerning a trial may be done only subject to the prior consent and permission of the court would tantamount to pre-censorship of reporting of court proceedings. And this would be plainly an infraction under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution.”

Something from the Times of India: [Link]

"We are quite conscious that the privately run TV channels in this country are quite young, no more than 18 or 20 years old. We also find that like every other sphere of human activity in the country, the electronic news media has a very broad spectrum ranging from very good to unspeakably bad,'' the bench said reflecting its opinion about the content aired by the channels.

Saying that some of the TV channels compare with the best in the world but have a long way to go in quest of excellence, the bench said, "But that is not to say that they are totally free from biases and prejudices or they do not commit mistakes or gaffes or they sometimes do not tend to trivialize highly serious issues or that there is nothing wanting in their social content and orientation or that they maintain the same standards in all their programmes.''

Date posted: July 30, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 469