The Supreme Court on Monday said that the self-regulatory mechanism to monitor news channels needs to be made more effective, reported PTI.

A three judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra made the comment while hearing a plea by the News Broadcasters and Digital Association challenging some observations of the Bombay High Court about the self-regulatory mechanism for media.

The News Broadcasters and Digital Association is headed by a retired Supreme Court judge. It has 27 news and current affairs broadcasters as its members.

While referring to the coverage following the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the High Court in 2021 had said that media trials amounted to contempt of court.

A two-judge bench had said that media trials could lead to interference in investigation and administration of justice. The judges had also observed that the existing self-regulatory mechanism lacks sanctity within the statutory framework.

On Monday, the Supreme Court said it is wary about the government regulating media and would not want a pre-censorship or post-censorship. “At the same time, the self-regulation mechanism has to be effective,” Chandrachud added.

The chief justice also referred to the media coverage of Rajput’s death in 2020. “Everybody went berserk presuming whether it’s a murder or suicide,” he said. “You preempt a criminal investigation by doing that.”

He added: “You say it is clear that, barring a few instances, almost all TV channels maintain self-restraint in telecast. I don’t know if you take a head count of the people in court, who will agree with what you say.”

The bench also told the the News Broadcasters and Digital Association that a fine of just Rs 1 lakh is hardly a deterrent for television channels that violate rules. The fine, the chief justice said, should ideally be more than the profits the media organisations make from a particular show.

Chandrachud noted that the Rs 1 lakh penalty was fixed in 2008 and had not been revised since, reported The Indian Express.

The Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and others seeking their responses to the association’s plea.

“We are of the considered view it would be necessary for this court to consider as to whether the steps which have already been taken for constituting a self-regulatory mechanism need to be strengthened both in terms of the ambit of the jurisdiction of mechanism as well [as] in terms of the final orders that may be passed,” the notice said.

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