The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought a response from the Centre, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Press Council of India and the News Broadcasters Association on actor Rakul Preet Singh’s plea against unsubstantiated reports linking her with a drug case being investigated by the Narcotics Control Bureau, reported Live Law.
Actor Rhea Chakraborty is a prime accused in the case and has been described as an “active member of a drugs syndicate” by the federal drug agency.
The court asked the respondents to file a status report by October 15 on the steps taken to restrain media.
Justice Navin Chawla refused to pass any interim directions, but asked the NBA to take up her representation on October 3. He also told the ministry that merely because the investigation in the drug case was “sensitive” or “at a crucial stage”, the government cannot say it will not look into the alleged false reporting by the media.
During the hearing via video conference, advocate Aman Hingorani, appearing for the actor, told the court that the media has been running fake news. “I have been summoned as a witness in the case,” said Hingorani on behalf of the actor. “Fake news is being spread that I am taking drugs and stocking it. I am a non-smoker, teetotaller.”
The court, however, noted that none of the channels who are allegedly broadcasting fake news were before it. “If you have a grievance against any particular broadcast, file an appropriate plea,” the judge said. “These channels are not before me.”
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, appearing for the I&B ministry, said they were in the process of addressing the actor’s complaint. “We are looking into the matter...I can understand that my friend’s client would be under mental agony,” said Sharma, according to News18.
On September 17, the Delhi High Court had asked media houses to exercise restraint after the actor filed her petition. The court asked media houses to abide by the provisions of the Programme Code, and other guidelines both statutory and self-regulatory. Justice Chawla had noted that media has failed to self-regulate itself and might be getting “haywire”.
Sushant Singh Rajput death coverage
Earlier this month, the Bombay High Court had told the Centre that it was “surprised” that there was no provision for a statutory body to regulate electronic media. The court made the observation while hearing petitions challenging the media trial in actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
Before that, the Press Council of India had advised media organisations to adhere to journalistic standards, refrain from sensational reporting and not conduct a parallel trial in the investigation into Rajput’s death. The Network of Women in Media had also criticised media houses for targeting Rhea Chakraborty and said investigating authorities should be allowed to do their job fairly.