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Role of Media in Sushant Singh Rajput’s Case: Boon or Bane?!

Sushant Singh Rajput was a great achiever in his life. Having secured 7th rank in All India Entrance for Engineering Examination, he could have easily become a good engineer.

However he chose to dropout in 3rd year of his college and decided to become a movie star instead. And he did succeed in becoming one. His movie journey has inspired millions, most notably  ‘Biopic of MS Dhoni’ & ‘Chhichhore’ which were depicted so well by Sushant on the silver screen. Unfortunately, he was found hanging on 14th June this year at his house in Mumbai after achieving everything.

Police was quick to declare it a suicide and started investigating the matter in a lethargic manner. General mass was disheartened as to why their favourite actor who was full of life would take such a step. Twist came when his father and family lodged an FIR against his girlfriend and actress, Rhea Chakroborty and her family under serious charges. Though the incident didn’t take place in Bihar, Bihar Police registered the FIR since the father of Sushant was his legal heir.

Maharashtra Police got offended and refused to share any details with Bihar Police as well as any co-operation to Bihar Police. The matter was then referred to CBI by the Bihar Government which was accepted by the Central Government. It eventually came to Supreme Court where both the families and both the state government were parties. It was decided by the apex court that Bihar Police was correct in lodging FIR & also approved CBI investigation.

After CBI took charge, there have been enormous development in the case with multiple angle to the alleged suicide/murder of Sushant Singh Rajput including Drugs, Money laundering, Nepotism, Mental Illness, etc. In all of this, the role of media has been very significant. The matter got so much attention and support of common people because the media took it to another level, where they thoroughly investigated the case and brought multiple angles of it.

This media led initiative got massive support of the common people in India and worldwide. They have made this issue a common household discussion, where everyone is eager to know the day-to-day updates of the case. Due to this media led trial, both Bihar Government as well as Maharashtra Government were forced to protect their interests.

This led to a bitter spat where Sushant’s family was supported by Bihar Government and a big segment of Media led the initiative to bring out various aspects of this alleged murder case of Sushant Singh Rajput. In the same time, other segment of media tried giving platform to Rhea Chakroborty and her family and have tried to establish a narrative in which the actress girlfriend was innocent and that Sushant was suffering from Mental illness.

In between these two state governments, two families and two narratives, the only hope of millions and billions of common people is Central Bureau of Investigation, working with proper due diligence  on various issues with respect to this case by taking support of various other National institutes.

So, one may morally support or oppose either side of the coin, however everyone needs to acknowledge the efforts of Media in this case. This case has been a prime example to show that Media is the forth pillar of our democracy.

This could be explained by understanding the fact that Republic Bharat & Aajtak is fighting for top position in terms of viewership from past few months in the Hindi news segment. Ironical is the fact that Republic Bharat has been critical and vocal about Rhea Chakroborty, her family and Maharashtra Government for their direct or partial involvement in the whole issue.

Aajtak on the other hand was the first to invite Rhea Chakroborty for a full fledged interview along with presenting Sushant in a bad light. However, viewers are watching both which proves my point that Media is doing their job i.e.; to put things out there.

Since there are so many media channels, there is no dearth of any news and that no narrative could be undermined by the media channels like it used to be 15-20 years ago. Bench of Justice A.A.Sayed & S.P.Tavade of Maharashtra High Court recently passed an interim order asking media to refrain from giving excessive publicity to accused, witnesses, victims and suspects.

This order is against the well settled principles led down by Supreme Court where it has been established that Media is the forth pillar of our democracy and if required, they can monitor themselves on their own. If the court passes orders like this, it could be against the very basics of our democracy and will have a long term implication where the ruling party could use this order in their benefit to lower down the tone of ‘Free Media’ which in no way is a good sign for democracy.

In a country where using internet is deemed to be a fundamental right, curbing the rights of media is definitely against the well defined principles. India has been a country which have included Freedom of Speech and Expression as a fundamental right and if the Court starts entertaining petitions which are seeking to curb this right, our country will soon become a banana republic like our Neighbor China or Pakistan. When Judiciary has been allowed to decide their own limits, when Legislation is allowed to decide their own limits, when Political Parties are allowed to decide their own limits, when even Entertainment industry is allowed to decide their own limits, this restriction on Media by the judiciary is uncalled for and not in good taste.

My humble request to our Judges is,

“Your Honours, kindly do not curtail the rights of media and keep in view the fabric of our constitution while deciding a case and let the motto of India prevail which says: सत्य मेव जयते।“

 

Author: Adv. Shashank Shekhar Jha
Legal Editor, GoaChronicle.com

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