In what could spell trouble for electronic media, the Bombay High Court on Thursday pushed for "state control over TV news." The court also reiterated that news channels must exercise self-restraint and avoid airing news that could hamper the probe in the Sushant Singh Rajput case.The court has also ordered the News Broadcasters Standard Authority to initiate action on the complaints filed by "aggrieved viewers" against these news channels for their coverage on Sushant's death.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girlish Kulkarni was surprised to note that there was no control over news media.
"We are surprised that there is no state control over the electronic media. The NBSA is a toothless body. Thus, we are of the opinion that there should be a control (on media coverage)," Chief Justice Datta remarked, while issuing notice to the Union Government to respond to a plea highlighting the manner in which the news channels have been reporting various crimes.
The bench was dealing with a plea filed by advocate Asim Sarode, who argued that there are many channels that are not enrolled with any news body associations and thus, continue to air or broadcast anything in the garb of free speech. He cited the ongoing media reportage of the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.
The judges were also dealing with similar petitions, including one filed by eight former IPS officers, highlighting the "false" campaign being run by a section of media to malign the image of Mumbai Police.
While hearing all the petitions, the bench noted that most news channels had not filed their replies, despite orders from another bench of the HC.
Only the CBI had filed its say in the matter, claiming that till date it had not "leaked" any information pertaining to Sushant's death to the media.
Appearing for the CBI, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh argued that the petitions must first be dealt with by the NBSA, which is headed by a former Supreme Court judge. However, the bench refused to pass such an order.
"It was expected of the broadcasters to exercise restraint with regard to the reporting of investigations in a manner that could not hamper the probe. But no such thing has been done," the bench said.
"We hope and trust that the spirit of the order of September 3 (to exercise self-restraint) shall be implemented by the media houses in its true sense," CJ Datta ordered.