The Bombay high court has rebuked the Maharashtra Police for going to the press with the alleged criminal acts of the five civil rights activists who were arrested a couple of days ago in connection with a Maoist plot to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In particular, the court objected to a senior police officer reading out portions from a letter purportedly exchanged between one of the arrested activists and an unnamed underground Maoist leader. The court found it unacceptable that the so-called evidence be made available freely to the people even before it is provided to it. In other words, the court deplored the usual practice of the police to tar a suspect’s image through a media trial.
Of course, this is not the first time the police have done it. It is normal for the police in every state to resort to a media trial of suspects even if in a vast majority of cases the charges fail the judicial test. Invariably, every authority be it the enforcement directorate, the income tax, excise, etc, exaggerates manifold the crimes of the suspects, including the size of the cache of illicit wealth, only for the case to fall flat at the trial stage several years later. Of course, intrepid newspersons ferreting out evidence on their own cannot be clubbed with the open media briefing by the police. Investigative reporting by journalists is on an entirely different footing than a media trial instigated by the police.