Democracy is a form of government which allows for maximum expression of individuals in its set up. However, there are certain restraints to this freedom. This article is a continuation of my previous article, where I’ve highlighted democracy, and it’s contrasts.
Press is considered the fourth pillar of democracy and rightly so. They are vested with the duty to report the truth and the happenings in our country impartially. Democracy also entails that people should be well informed to take a stand for or against something. Though our Constitution does not explicitly mention freedom of Press, it has become a part of our Fundamental Rights through judicial discourse.
However, the freedom given to the press is not an absolute one. More often than not, the journalists are caught up in cases of defamation, contempt and the like. The media have played a considerable role in shaping public opinion. The concept of media trials is a rather intriguing one. It is when the media evades someone’s personal space to declare someone as guilty or not.
Media trials always come along with a clash of fundamental rights. On one hand, the right to freedom of press. And the right to privacy and dignity of the individuals involved. The Judiciary has a crucial role to play while being impartial. Being impartial is of utmost importance. A negative side to these trials is that they hold power to influence the Judiciary as well. It is challenging for the Judiciary to strike a balance between public pressure and what is right for the law.
There are three sides to media trial, the good, the bad and the ugly. The article aims at exploring these facets and the legality of these trials. The present article will be focusing on the media trial in the case of Sushant Singh Rajput.
The Case Unfolds
In a tragic turn of events, Sushant Singh Rajput, a Bollywood actor, was found dead in his apartment on 14th June 2020. A lot of media coverage was given to his death. Initially, the death was being termed as suicide. The cause being depression and financial crisis.
This ensued a series of posts on social media, talking about the importance of mental health. This was a good campaign, but it is sad that it took someone’s death to get the conversation started. Various celebrities started sharing personal experiences. Few of them also had sessions for mental health awareness. Therefore, at one point, the death of the actor was construed as suicide.
Speaking about the bad or rather ugly side of being a celebrity, there’s barely any private space. This is what happened with the deceased actor as well. The pictures of the actor’s dead body started circulating on all social media platforms. This was rather disgusting to witness, as Right to Privacy has been considered as a Fundamental Right. Even as basic human decency, this shouldn’t have been done. Various videos were taken at the scene, which also went viral.
A rather intriguing facet of such a trend was that speculation theories started building up. As more and more people saw the body and the scene, they were convinced that it wasn’t a suicide. Various aspects were brought to light and still are. Like, the height of the actor and the distance between the ceiling. The marks on the knees of the deceased. The ligature mark formed on the neck. The mystery regarding change of ambulances caught on footage. And much more evidence and mysteries coming to the forefront.
A widespread campaign with the hashtag Warriors for SSR and CBI for Sushant started doing the rounds in social media as well as news channels. Celebrities started a nepotism debate and stated that real talent is undermined. On the other hand, news channels statutes taking a political stance. There has been a political, a social, legal as well as psychological background to this case.
Rhea Chakraborty, the deceased actor’s alleged girlfriend, has garnered a lot of attention. She is being targeted and even been declared as a culprit by the media. Various news channels accessed the deceased’s bank statements, which showed a huge amount of money spent by Rhea and her family for their personal and professional expenses. The media has started calling Rhea names.
Not only this, few netizens also sent death and rape threats to her. Various fan pages of the deceased actor started trolling her endlessly and framed her as the murderer.
A petition, signed by Zoya Akhtar and various female celebrities was sent to the National Commission of Women. The letter asked the NCW to look into the matter and stop the media trial against Rhea.
Rhea was not the only person to receive the heat. Mahesh Bhatt too faced a lot of backlash. Along with them was Suraj Pancholi is also being framed in the case. Suraj Pancholi filed a complaint with the Mumbai Police. He stated that he is being harassed by netizens and being framed for no reason. The Enforcement Directorate also called out Rhea and her family for allegations of money laundering.
Rhea Chakraborty filed a case before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The petition stated that the case should be transferred to Mumbai Police. Another petition was filed by Rhea seeking Court asking a ban on the media trial against her.
However, the Supreme Court has now given a green flag to the investigation by the CBI. Therefore, this media campaign and trial has, to an extent, been successful, not from the aspect of harassment, but from the aspect of reaching the ends of justice. Now that the CBI will take over the case entirely, we must trust the process. These media trials and speculation should come to an end. This doesn’t mean, we shouldn’t ask for justice or raise our voices against injustice. But we should now trust the agencies and be patient. In the end, “The truth shall prevail. Satyameva Jayate”.
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