The Supreme Court on Thursday said that selective disclosures made to the media during investigation of a crime affects the rights of both the accused and the victims, reported Live Law.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee made the observation while cancelling an anticipatory bail granted by the Allahabad High Court to the in-laws of a deceased woman in a dowry death case.
The Supreme Court noted that within a couple of days of the woman’s death, reports of an alleged suicide note appeared in the newspapers in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra city. “The sequence in this case appears to follow familiar patterns,” the court said in its order. “Immediate publicity was given to the alleged suicide note. These examples are now becoming familiar.”
While noting media’s legitimate stake in fair reporting, the court said, “selective disclosures to the media affect the rights of the accused in some cases and the rights of victims’ families in others.”
The court also said that the investigating officer’s role is compromised when a selective leak, like the suicide note, is put out in the public realm.
The order added:
“Events such as what has happened in this case show how the selective divulging of information, including the disclosure of material which may eventually form a crucial part of the evidentiary record at the criminal trial, can be used to derail the administration of criminal justice. This is not fair to the accused because it pulls the rug below the presumption of innocence. It is not fair to the victims of crime, if they have survived the crime, and where they have not, to their families. Neither the victims nor their families have a platform to answer the publication of lurid details about their lives and circumstances.”— Supreme Court, Live Law
The Supreme Court also disagreed with the Allahabad High Court order granting anticipatory bail to the accused in the case. The judges said that the first information report lodged in the case contained details of incidents of assault and payment of money to the in-laws of the deceased.
“The grant of anticipatory bail in such a serious offence would operate to obstruct the investigation,” the court noted. The judges directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to conduct further inquiry into the case.