The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed media organisations to observe restraint while reporting or publishing any “content” regarding the death of a woman in Pune, who last month fell from the balcony of her house and was declared dead at a hospital.
The court asked television channels to “scrupulously follow guidelines” which it had laid down while hearing PILs against “media trial” in the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale passed the judgment on a plea by the deceased girl’s father through senior counsel Shirish Gupte seeking restraining orders on electronic and print media from misreporting facts based on audio clips of conversations between his daughter and some person.
Gupte submitted that on February 8, the petitioner learnt that his daughter fell from the balcony of her flat as she lost her balance and was taken to a hospital where she was declared dead.
“Soon after the death of the petitioner’s daughter, various news reports in print and electronic media emerged stating that his daughter was having an illicit affair. Such news is defamatory and derogatory to the name of the petitioner and his family, including his daughter,” Gupte argued.
He added that around 12 audio clips of alleged conversations of the petitioner’s daughter with some unknown person were circulated by political parties and the media with the sole purpose to defame the name and image of the petitioner and his family.
The father sought that print and electronic media be restrained from publishing news maligning the image of petitioner and referred to the guidelines laid down by the High Court in the Sushant Singh Rajput case on January 18.
Advocates Bharat K Manghnani, Harsh B Buch and Priya Vaity, appearing on behalf of respondent media organisations, said their clients will exercise restraint and will not publish any “objectionable contents” and “follow the guidelines laid down by the division bench of the High Court”.
The court had laid down various guidelines for reporting on “sensitive criminal matters, including death by suicide, and had held that the media should avoid putting photographs of victims, depicting the deceased as a weak character, or try to reconstruct the incident while investigation is underway”.
In view of this, the High Court granted interim relief to the petitioner’s father and noted: “By way of ad-interim relief, in the interregnum, we direct the respondents to scrupulously follow the guidelines issued by this Court in the judgment in the case of Nilesh Navlakha (January 18) and not to publish or give any unnecessary publicity to the incident of death of the daughter of the petitioner and further alleged illicit relationship of the daughter with Y.”
The court also issued notices to the respondents, including the Centre, state government, Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association and four Marathi news channels, to respond to the plea before March 31.