Time to draw ’Lakshman rekha’ for media: Senior advocate Harish Salve

Mumbai: The bloodthirsty media now has to be controlled by the courts to avoid a parallel trial in criminal cases, said senior advocate Harish Salve on Saturday. The noted advocate, while speaking at the Ram Jethmalani lecture on "pros and cons" of a media trial, said the courts must draw a 'lakhsman rekha' for the media.

The lecture was attended by Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Justice L Nageswara Rao of the Supreme Court, K Venugopal, Attorney General of India among other senior advocates.

Speaking at the online lecture, Salve said, "The Indian judicial system in high profile cases has become a circus. Media does not believe in anything called as law of evidence. Trial by court of law has been replaced by trial by embarassment. Selective leaks from investigative agencies become headlines."

The senior advocate further said that media while reporting criminal cases does not bother about someone's reputation. "Privacy has no value (in media trial) as the media jumps into people's lives, calls them names, all in the name of transparency. It is now baying for blood, without waiting for the process of court of law," Salve said.

Salve further said that now with the social media along with electronic TV news, there has been a "dangerous cocktail."

"Social media has put the power of publication in the hands of everybody who has an opinion and who has a bias. Media has to be controlled by the courts and the judiciary has to lay down the 'lakshman rekha' which the media should not cross," Salve remarked, stressing on the need to fix "accountability" of the media through a system in accordance with rule of law.

"Clear rules have to be media on which are the 'no-go' areas for reporting on a crime which is under investigation," the senior counsel added.

Speaking at the lecture, senior advocate AM Singhvi said when the media claims to be the "fourth pillar" of democracy, "it must be prepared to face the slings and arrows of scrutiny, just as much and more as the other three pillars. You cannot have your cake and eat it too," Singhvi said.

"Time may not be far where we have to invent new offences of 'verbal terrorism, visual extremism and content fundamentalism.'

I can derive all three from showing actual clips of the media," Singhvi said, adding that the Supreme Court's sermons against media trial have been reduced into mere ink on paper.

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