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Supreme Court issues notice to Centre on PIL seeking guidelines on media reporting in cases being probed

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The Supreme Court issued notice on Monday to the Central government over a PIL seeking uniform guidelines to both the police/investigating agencies and the media, regarding the identity of accused or suspects, especially in cases, in which probe was going on.

A Bench comprising Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice V. Ramasubramanian issued notice to the Union government on a petition seeking guidelines to protect the rights of suspects and accused in criminal investigations.

Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Menaka Guruswamy contended that the petitioner himself had been questioned and detained by the Anti-Terrorism Squad of Uttar Pradesh Police in connection with a criminal case, but he was given a clean chit, after no involvement was found.

The petition, filed by Advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi and drawn by Advocates Ibad Mushtaq and Akanksha Rai, contended that the petitioner was still facing societal prejudice due to detention, despite being proven innocent.

It sought guidelines or directions to all Police Departments in the country with regard to ensuring the right to dignity, equality and liberty of a suspect or accused in criminal probe, while interacting with the media.

The PIL drew the attention of the court to the fact if a person was merely detained, it was sufficient to destroy his reputation in the society. The petitioner said it should be the collective responsibility of both the Police and the Investigating Agency to make every possible effort to restore the lost reputation of the accused, ensuring him the right to dignity.

The petition further mentioned the recent trend of the media getting access to charge sheets or details of sensitive cases, even before such documents being submitted in the court.

It said there were thousands of suspects, who were initially named in an investigation, but later given a clean chit.

The petition sought the Centre to formulate guidelines for such people, stating that the human rights of suspects or accused should be kept in mind by the police and investigating agencies, while talking to the media.

They should also strictly follow the principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty, added the PIL.

The agencies should be discouraged from disclosing the identity of suspects or accused at preliminary stages in ongoing criminal cases.

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