Kerala HC dismisses PIL seeking guidelines for media regulation

The Kerala High Court Thursday dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by an advocate seeking the framing of guidelines to regulate the activities of the print and electronic media in order to restrict the media from conducting a trial in matters of public interest.

The plea also sought a direction to restrain the media from taking names of persons, their caste, religion or political affiliation etc. who are accused in a criminal case.

A division bench of the Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly held that no guidelines could be issued in a PIL, while noting that a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court in Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Limited and others v. Securities and Exchange Board of India and another (2012) had held that general framing of guidelines for regulating the press was not possible.

The bench further held that the apex court in the Sahara case made it clear that the courts on a case-to-case basis could restrict the media.

“A Judge adjudicating any lis before it would be depending solely on the materials available on record, and definitely would not be guided by a press report unless the report itself is a material for consideration in the lis”, the bench said.

The petitioner had argued that the media made scathing attacks by themselves acting as Judges, overriding the official justice delivery system, and thereby interfering with the right to a fair trial of an accused in criminal cases.

To buttress his argument, the petitioner pointed out that aspersions are made in the print, as well as the visual media against the Chief Minister, Ministers, Opposition Leader and others without any basis and factual foundation.

According to the petitioner, a trial by the press, electronic media or public agitation is the very antithesis of the rule of law and can lead to a miscarriage of justice.

He, thus, submitted that in the guise of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India, the media was publishing their prejudiced opinion with the intention of conveying their political agenda and matters being so, the licence of the politically affiliated media houses must be cancelled to bring sanctity into the industry.

Eventually, the plea did not find favour with the bench, which dismissed it in a 48-page order.

Read the Order