Author :- Muskaan Bhandari

The strength of democracy depends upon the strength of each of the four pillars which complements each other, one of them is Media. It is the fourth pillar following, Executive, Legislative and Judiciary.

Media plays a vital role in forming the society. Available in various forms, this pillar is the closest to the laymen. Following a survey, it is known that people spend a considerable amount of their time on internet for getting news and entertainment. Although their impact varies accordingly, but it is the most quick and convenient form of getting aware about what’s happening in the society.

I remember a well said quote by Jim Morrison, “Whoever controls media, controls the mind”. And I believe that we can easily consider this quote in its true sense.

Looking towards the current scenario, people want to be aware minute to minute. Media provides a vast expansion of news, from the current number of patients to the list of all the necessary precautions to be taken cared of; from the movie reviews to the blind articles, all are the contribution of our dearest Mass Media.

Contribution of Media in law

Media has always been a powerful tool in the hands of public. It plays a significant role in law as well. Whether it is regarding the upliftment of a case or emphasising people for candle marches or rallies. Media has been a tool that has a major impact in the 21st century and has been used to reinforce every individual’s mindset towards or against any motion.

Their ideas has been the basis of participations and debates in the society, but their impact varies from situation to situation. The Indian Constitution, under article 19 (1) (a) provides the freedom of speech, which as a consequence is recognised through media.

Trials by media has been influencing the cases and verdicts since 1967. Wherein, the verdict given by the judge are sometimes underrated and the trial by media weighs more as public is highly influenced by the unknown facts which are boomed by different social media platforms. These situations occur due to the loopholes pertaining in the Indian Legal System and also the large number of pendency of cases reaching almost 44 lakhs.

As I earlier talked about the public pressure which media makes on government to provide justice, the most popular and crucial case which comes to my mind is the 2012 Delhi Gang Rape Case, popularly known as NIRBHAYA KAND, resulted in instant actions being taken by the government,  which was never witnessed before.

The case resulted in huge protests all over the country and also provided a medium to a huge number of women to come out of their comfort zone and talk about the sexual violence they, at any point of time, have faced or experienced. People broke their silence and started talking about the issue more and more with each passing day. There were widespread debates, both online and offline and it further resulted in creating a significant gender movement in India.

Post the Nirbhaya case, India witnessed a deep reflection on the nature of Indian society, sexual harassment, abuse and the structures of governance that failed to keep women of the country safe.

The incident generated widespread national and international coverage and was widely condemned, in both India as well as abroad. Subsequently, public protests against state and central government for failing to provide adequate security for women took place in New Delhi.

Although all the accused were arrested and charged with sexual assault and murder. On 10 September 2013, they were found guilty and three days later were sentenced to death but it took  almost 7 years to actually hang them, that means, the four adult convicts were hanged on 20 march 2020. 

Another case to consider is the Jessica Lal Murder Case, On the momentous day of April 29, 1999, Manu Sharma, known to be a regular partygoer, was present at a party where an unlicensed bar was functioning. Sharma asked for liquor to which Jessica refuse to serve him, despite being offered 1000 rupees. To which Sharma fired a .22 piston and killed her.

She was immediately taken to the hospital but was declared dead and Manu Sharma who was the son of former Haryana Congress Leader Vinod Sharma, was given life imprisonment.

Considering the fact that Manu Sharma had an upper hand on him, he and other accused were acquitted. But due to the chaos throughout the social media platforms, public decided to give her the justice and pressurised the prosecution to appeal in New Delhi High Court for fast track proceedings.

People came out on the road, started candle marches and rallies and started their demand for justice. Following the nationwide public protests, Delhi High Court convicted him and charged with murder, destruction of evidence and other offences.

Although delayed but the justice was not denied, which would not have been possible without the intervention of media in the case.

Media has even helped a dejected common man who was not at fault to get justice. I am talking about the popular 2008 Noida Double Murder Case, also known as Aarushi Talwar Murder Case, an unsolved murder mystery of a 13-year old girl, Aarushi Talwar and 45-year old male live-in domestic worker Hemraj Banjade.

The two were killed on the night of May, 15 and 16, 2008. The first prime suspects of police were the parents of Aarushi, Dr. Rajesh Talwar and Nupur Talwar but then the case was transferred to CBI, which exonerated the parents and suspected their assistant, Krishna and two domestic servants, Rajkumar and Vijay. Based on the narco interrogation  conducted on all of them, CBI assumed that they must have killed Aarushi after attempting sexual assault and Hemraj might have been the witness. But all the three men were released as they could not find any solid evidence against them.

On 21st may, Delhi Police joined the UP police in the investigation and along with them media has also started suspecting the parents for multiple reasons. An attempt had been made to hide Hemraj’s body and the police suspected that Talwars had planned to blame Aarushi’s murder on Hemraj and hid his body on the terrace for disposing of it later. But due to media glare and constant stream of visitors made it impossible for them to get rid of the body.

After the discovery of Hemraj’s body, the case attracted huge public attention. On 25th  November 2013, a special CBI court held that Rajesh and Nupur are guilty for the two murders and convicted the couple for murder, destruction of evidence, misleading the police and filing a wrong FIR. On 26 November 2013, they were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders.

Although media has played a significant role in upholding the pending cases and creating awareness among the society but sometimes it has also mistaken and have taken some undesirable steps which led to miscommunication among the society and have misguided the public.

Let us look into one such derogatory case, Jasleen Kaur Case. Saravjeet Singh, a 28-year-old Delhi resident, who was false alleged as an “eve teaser” and “pervert” by Jasleen Kaur, a former student at St. Stephen College.

One fine day, Jasleen Kaur shared a Facebook post in which she was accusing Saravjeet of harassing her verbally at the Tilak Nagar traffic signal in West Delhi. The post took a troll and became the national headline.

Popular Indian websites and social media pages took keen interest in the story and accused him without even blurring his face. Public started recognising him and therefore, this started a chain of publicly shaming him without even cross-checking the facts.

Although there was no evidence to prove the claim, but the public believed the viral post and he was publicly shamed in front of millions of people. Even some of the leading actors started praising Jasleen for what she had done.  Saravjeet’s life was ruined overnight and he was defamed in the society by the name of “Delhi ka Darinda”.

Eventually, when the situation became out of control, Saravjeet thought of sharing his part of the story but no one really believed him. Soon after, an eye witness, Vishwajeet Singh came up in the support of Saravjeet and vouched for his innocence. He claimed that it was Jasleen, who first started to abuse him and misbehaved with Saravjeet verbally. 

In 2016, News Broadcasting Standards Authority asked the national news channel, Times Now, to issue an apology to Saravjeet. And also actor Sonakshi Sinha, who had earlier trusted Jasleen, also apologised to Sarvajeet.

Even though everybody apologised to Saravjeet and he was proven innocent after four years with no doubtful circumstances, but no one could recover the cost of defamation the outbreak had created to him. Yes, I agree that media was at a bigger fault here, it should have cross checked the situation and there were high chances that this would not have been the situation then.