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Bombay High Court pulls up Republic TV, asks if contravening upon a person’s rights qualified as ‘investigative journalism’

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New Delhi (ILNS): The Bombay High Court has asked Republic TV if pushing for the arrest of a person yet to be proved guilty in a case was “investigative journalism”. Expressing concern over the media trials that had been held the court asked the TV channel whether asking viewers who should be arrested in a case in which a probe is going on, and contravening upon a person’s rights qualified as any form of investigation.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni was referring to a hashtag campaign #ArrestRhea run by the channel, following the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

The bench asked: “When a case is under investigation and the issue is whether it’s a homicide or a suicide and a channel is saying it is murder, is that investigative? “Ignorance of law is no excuse. You become the investigators and prosecutors, judges. What is use of us then? Why are we here?”

The court made the remarks in reference to advocate Malvika Trivedi, the channel’s counsel submission, wherein it was stated that the channel was carrying out an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Rajput’s death. Trivedi further argued that the channel was trying to highlight the defects in the investigation into the case and to bring to the public domain the facts which had not been revealed, due to which there was further intervention in the case.

The counsel for Republic TV also contended that the hashtags expressed public opinion and only facts were being stated by the channel. During the day-long hearing, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the government, said that the Centre was in favour of a self-regulatory mechanism for the print and TV media.

“There are certain Suicide Reporting guidelines. There should be no sensational headlines. Don’t you have respect for the dead? It is so unfortunate,” remarked the court.

The Court also heard the lawyers of Aaj Tak, India TV, Zee News and ABP News, who are a party in the case.

The court will continue the hearing on the Petitions on October 23.

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