Trial by media
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This article is written by Shashwat Kaushik, from CCS University. This article is an exhaustive study of media trials along with their impacts and landmark cases.


Media is viewed as one of the four pillars of democracy. It plays a crucial role in shaping the opinion of the general public and it has the capability of changing the entire perspective through which individuals make their discernments on different occasions. Media trial depicts the effect of TV, magazine, and newspaper inclusion on an individual’s standing by making a far and wide view of the verdict regardless of any decision in an official courtroom. 

Media trial

Media trials can be traced back to the twentieth century although the expression “media trials” had been begat of late yet the saying had gotten its importance from the instance of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (1921) who was released by the official courtroom, yet had lost all his honour and reputation along with his job after the media had pronounced him “guilty”. Another famous case was the preliminary of O.J. Simpson (1995), where the media had impacted the case and profoundly affected the conciseness of the viewers even over the situation with the court. Media profoundly empowers or impacts the perspectives on open.

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Media trial versus fair trial 

There has been no overall set of laws where the media is the power to attempt a case. Each coin has different sides so is the situation with media preliminaries and reporting, at specific occasions a columnist depicts a pre-chosen picture of a charge along these lines tearing his/her standing that can at last influence the preliminary and the judgment, hence preliminary by media. Sheena Bohra murder case (2018) is a famous case wherein the media has affected the image of the blamed Indrani Mukherjea that emerged a discussion on the issue of media trial of the charged. In the consciousness of such cases, the morals of journalism were addressed.

Media is viewed as one of the mainstays of the government. Freedom of media is the opportunity for individuals to be educated regarding public issues. The free and sound press is imperative to the working of the government. Democracy system implies the making of the government by individuals and has an active interest in community decisions. It is, consequently, required that individuals be educated about current and consuming undertakings of society. The press and media must make individuals edified over issues identifying with public importance. It is for this reason that the right to speak freely of discourse and articulation have been stretched out to incorporate freedom of the press and media. The right to freedom of expression is contained in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Be that as it may, this opportunity isn’t supreme. Sensible limitations are allowed by sub-provision (2) of the same article. The opportunity of expression doesn’t mean the freedom to contempt of court.

Parties to a case have a right to have a reasonable preliminary hearing in an official courtroom by an unbiased council, free, reasonable, and uninfluenced by any factor. This right of a fair trial might be crushed if the media while revealing a matter to utilise such a language that may have an impact to affect the psyche of a Judge and control the legal cycles. With the development of cable television and channels, local radios, newspapers and magazines, networks, and the internet the media has expanded a ton. 

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In ongoing times, there have been various cases in which the media has led the verdict of a charge and has passed the decision that too before the Court’s decision. This marvel is prominently called a media trial. A trial is a word, which is related to the cycle of equity. Assumption of honesty is the premise of the criminal statute and it is the fundamental part of any legal framework that the accused ought to get a reasonable preliminary. Photos and different materials such as meetings and so on are distributed and displayed alongside open responses. The issue becomes more apparent when the issue includes enormous names and famous people. In such cases, media announcing can swing famous estimations in any case. It is, consequently, important to make a harmony between the established assurance of free media on one hand and the individual right to a reasonable trial on the other. 

Freedom of press – Article 19(1)(a) 

To safeguard the vote-based lifestyle, it is fundamental that individuals ought to have the opportunity to express their sentiments and to spread the word about their perspectives for individuals on the loose. The press, an amazing mechanism of mass communication, ought to be allowed to assume its part in building a solid reasonable society. Refusal of freedom of the press to residents would essentially subvert the ability to impact the minds of people and be counter to democracy. 

The opportunity of the press isn’t explicitly referenced in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and what is referenced there is just being able to speak freely and express. In the constituent assembly debates, it was clarified by Dr. B R Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee, that no exceptional notice of the opportunity of the press was important at all as the press and an individual or a resident were equivalent as far as their right of expression was concerned. 

The framers of the Indian Constitution considered the freedom of the press as a fundamental piece of the ability to speak freely and express as ensured in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. 

In Romesh Thaper v. State of Madras (1950), and Brij Bhushan v. the State of Delhi (1950), the Supreme Court underestimated the way that the freedom of the press was a fundamental piece of the right to the right to speak freely of discourse and express. It was seen by Patanjali Sastri J. in Romesh Thaper that the right to speak freely and express included the proliferation of thoughts and that opportunity was guaranteed by the freedom of circulation.

Landmark cases related to media trial 

Sanjay Dutt case (1994) 

In this case, after the Supreme Court condemned Sanjay Dutt to five years of detainment, he needed to serve in prison because of his inclusion in the 1993 Mumbai Serial Blast. In 1994, Sanjay Dutt was captured at the air terminal and he admitted that in January 1993 Abu Sale, Mafia Don had visited his home with Hanif Kadawala and Samir Hingora, they were Magnum owners and they were close partners of Dawood Ibrahim, who is an underworld don. In his assertion, Sanjay Dutt additionally said that these individuals alongside ammo had got three AK-56 rifles with them, out of which one was kept by Sanjay Dutt. 

As per him, he maintained the weapon in control for the security of his family due to the dangers that he had gotten during the mobs in Mumbai which was trailed by the Babri Masjid destruction in December 1992. After Sanjay Dutt heard the capture of Hanif Kadawala and Samir Hingora and the sequential impacts in Mumbai, Dutt asked his companion Yusuf Nulwalla to obliterate the rifle. However, the assertion was subsequently removed by him. After this, he was before long charged and captured under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), 1987 for getting ammo from Abu Salem and his engagement in the blasts. 

Following a year and a half of detainment, Sanjay Dutt had the option to get bail. The TADA Court following 11 years vindicated Sanjay Dutt of all charges made against him after seeing that he had gained weapons for self-preservation and he was not a terrorist. He was condemned to six years in prison for conviction under the Arms Act, 1959 for which Sanjay Dutt had figured out how to get bail from the Supreme Court. On 31 July 2007, he was shipped off Pune’s Yerawada jail. Nonetheless, he was later temporarily free from jail. On March 21, 2013, the Supreme Court had additionally sliced short his term to five and which finished on February 27, 2016. 

Being a well-known entertainer, this case was featured by the media to a degree, the media depicted the image of Sanjay Dutt as a terrorist, which was subsequently held by the Court that he was not blamed for those charges. After this occurrence, being an entertainer he needed to endure a ton of issues and shock and his standing got drained. 

Ayodhya case (2019) 

It is quite possibly the most talked about and acclaimed case in India. This case has strong religious and political roots. The question revolves around the land in the origin of Lord Rama, Ayodhya. The basic issues, for this situation, were between the Hindu and Muslim people group in regards to this land parcel that conveyed some strict convictions between the local area Hindus and Muslims. The well-known Babri Masjid which is believed to be at a similar spot was wrecked by savage Hindu activists during a meeting on sixth December 1992 which is believed to be where a Ram Temple previously existed and where Lord Rama was born. 

This act of destruction prompted riots and therefore, a case was filed in the Allahabad High Court for the claim of the land. With time the case continued turning out to be more dubious and the closing judgment came at last after 18 years. The judgment was passed remembering the religious sentiments of both the networks. It was ordered by the Court that the Ayodhya land that was of 2.77 acres of land will be separated into three sections. 33% of the land was enrolled to Sunni Waqf Board, another third to Hindu Mahasabha to construct Ram mandir and the other 33% was passed to Nirmohi Akhara (Hindu religious community). 

This case had been tried for a long time by the media and showed little disputes over the media and irrelevant things related to the case which just worked as the disputes between the two communities all over India.

Jessica Lal murder case (1999)

In this case, in 1999, Jessica Lal (model turned barmaid) who was working in a restaurant claimed by socialite Bona Ramani in Mehrauli, South Delhi’s, was shot dead by Manu Sharma (assumed name Siddharth Vashisth), son of Congress previous Union Minister, Venod Sharma after Jessica wouldn’t serve alcohol to him and his companions. This case quickly acquired media inclusion after the homicide when the charge was cleared by the preliminary court. This case was one of the top situations where the public pressing factor and media constrained the equity framework to require another consideration in this case. Although Manu Sharma was vindicated at first in the year 2006 as the Delhi police neglected to support the grounds on which they had developed their case after open objection due to the media inclusion of the case, the Delhi High Court condemned him to life detainment.


From the above article, it can be concluded that the media trials have had adverse consequences than positive ones. The media must be appropriately directed by the courts. While the media which has been constrained by the government isn’t useful. Along these lines, media preliminaries have just served to help individuals without a doubt, not many examples however that doesn’t occur in every one of the cases, consequently, it is important to have limitations forced on it.

The Council has an incredible role to perform while drafting laws on media, guaranteeing that their freedom isn’t restricted. The media has the option to examine and remark working on this issue’s decisions yet they have no right or opportunity to begin a preliminary on sub-judice matters. The right of the accused to have a fair trial is in every case more significant than the freedom of media prior to beginning the preliminary of the forthcoming case. Media preliminary ruins the motivation behind equity.


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