Dec 16 documentary: Media trials tend to influence judges: HC

Dec 16 documentary Media trials tend to influence judges HCNEW DELHI: Media trials tend to influence judges by subconsciously creating a pressure, the Delhi High Court today observed on the airing of the controversial documentary on December 16 gangrape case.

A bench of justices B D Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva said although it is prima facie not opposed to airing of the documentary, it should be released after the Supreme Court decides the appeals of the convicts in the matter.

“Media trials do tend to influence judges. Subconsciously a pressure is created and it does have an effect on the sentencing of the accused/ convict,” it said in support of its observation.

The bench was of the view that the documentary could “interfere with the justice system” but refused to pass any interim orders saying it has to be decided by an appropriate bench of Chief Justice.

“We are prima facie not opposed to airing of the documentary, but only after the Supreme Court decides the appeals.

“Had it been originally placed before us, we would have asked you to place material before us on why ban be lifted.

But it has come here from the roster bench of Chief Justice, so we will not pass any interim orders. Let the roster bench decide it,” the court said and listed the matter for hearing on March 18.

Observing that airing of the video could make or ruin the case of one of the rape convicts, Mukesh, it said, “Whether he has shown remorse or not would be considered at the time of his sentencing. Why not wait till the Supreme Court decision?”

On the contention that ban on airing of the video till apex court judgment could also lead to gag on reporting of all sub-judice matters, the bench said,” We agree”.

It said that earlier media had a self imposed code of not reporting sub-judice matters, but now “media has thrown it (the code) to the winds”.

The Central government, represented by advocate Monika Arora, opposed airing of the documentary saying it would give a platform to the convict to air his views and that it also contains derogatory statements against the victim.

She also said that Information and Broadcasting Ministry only issued an advisory to cable TV networks to abide by the magisterial court’s order banning airing of the documentary.

The petitioners, on the other hand, claimed that as the government failed to control spread of the documentary via Internet and since its viewing by lakhs of people caused no untoward or law and order situation there are no grounds for banning the video.

The petitioners also said that parts of the convict’s interview are already part of the judgment in the case by the trial court and high court and thus are public records.

The court had earlier refused to give urgent hearing after three law students – Vibhor Anand, Arun Menon and Kritika Padode – in their two separate PILs, said “fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression have been infringed due to government’s illegal action to ban the broadcast.”

They had approached the high court after a trial court on March 4 had banned until further orders the broadcast of the interview of December 16, 2012 gangrape convict Mukesh Singh, allegedly conducted in July 2013 inside Tihar jail here.

Earlier, a trial court had restrained the media from broadcasting or publishing the interview of Mukesh Singh after the Delhi Police moved the court seeking the restraint.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry had also issued an advisory to all television channels not to broadcast it.

The pleas had sought lifting of the ban on the ground that it is “a look at the mindset of one of the convicted rapists”.

One of the pleas had also sought direction to the Bar Council of India to expedite action against the two lawyers – advocate A P Singh and M L Sharma – who had allegedly made derogatory anti-women remarks in the documentary.

It also claimed that the parents of the gangrape victim have not objected to the telecast of the documentary.

The victim, a physiotherapy student, was raped and assaulted with an iron rod after she boarded an unregistered private bus to go home after watching a movie with a male friend on December 16, 2012.

Her male companion was badly beaten up and could not come to her rescue when she was assaulted in the bus. The two were later dumped naked and bleeding on the roadside.

The woman was airlifted to a Singapore hospital for treatment where she died – 13 days after the assault – of the injuries inflicted upon her.

Mukesh, along with three others, was convicted and sentenced to death in September 2013 for the gangrape and murder of the 23-year-old victim.–PTI

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