Role of media & Kangaroo Courts

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    In Context

    • Recently, Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana said that the media is running “kangaroo courts” in India.

    More about the news

    • Kangaroo Courts and justice delivery:
      • The Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana said that the kangaroo courts being run by the media are detrimental to the health of the country’s democracy.
      • Ill-informed, biased and agenda-driven debates in the media on issues pending in courts are affecting justice delivery.
    • Against the judges:
      • He said concerted campaigns against judges, particularly on social media, and media trials affect judicial functioning. 
      • It is not easy to swallow when false narratives are created about the “easy life” led by judges.
    • Print, electronic & social media:
      • Print media still has certain degree of accountability. 
      • Whereas, electronic media has zero accountability as to what it shows vanishes in thin air. 
      • Still worse is social media
    • Media regulations:
      • Owing to the frequent transgressions and consequent social unrests, there is a growing demand for stricter media regulations and accountability.
      • The top judge advised the media to “self-regulate and measure their words”.

    More about media trials

    • About:
      • ‘Trial by media’ is a recently coined term and is used to denote a facet of ‘media activism.’ 
      • It means “the impact of television and newspaper coverage on a person’s reputation by creating a widespread perception of guilt regardless of any verdict in a Court of law. 
    • Impact of media trials on justice delivery:
      • Pressure on judges:
        • Media activism imposes an indirect pressure on the adjudicating authorities to deliver justice to victims who may interfere with the trial proceedings and may cause prejudice to the accused and the chance of proving his innocence. 
      • Right to privacy:
        • They invade their privacy which causes a breach of the Right to Privacy guaranteed under Article 21
      • The news is whatever sells the best:
        • But the need to compete for commercialization and more views has transformed the media today into a full-fledged game for viewership. The name of the game is ratings, viewership, eyeballs, and commercials.  
      • Sensationalism:
        • The recent example of prioritisation and extreme coverage of a superstar’s son over alleged drug abuse as opposed to covering the death of protesting farmers is one of the many instances where media has shown that it seeks to cover sensational news more than any other.  
        • This means, whatever catches and grasps the attention of the public. Or, in other words, ‘sensationalism’. 

    Kangaroo Court

    • The phrase ”Kangaroo Court” is used against a judicial system where the judgement against the accused is usually predetermined
    • Moreover, the system does not work on the standards of law or justice. 
    • In Kangaroo Court, the procedure is only conducted as a formality.
    • Kangaroo Courts are known for working against the phrase ”innocent until proven guilty”
    • The court does not allow to appeal against its judgement.
    • The Kangaroo Courts were common during the Stalin era in the Soviet Union, famous as the ”Moscow Trails” of the Soviet Great Purge.

    Regulation of media in India:

    • Media in India is mostly self-regulated.  
      • The existing bodies for regulation of media such as the Press Council of India which is a statutory body and the News Broadcasting Standards Authority, a self-regulatory organization, issue standards which are more in the nature of guidelines. 
    • Print Media:
      • Press Council of India (PCI): 
        • The PCI was established under the PCI Act of 1978 for the purpose of preserving the freedom of the press and of maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India.
        • Functions: 
          • Helping newspapers maintain their independence;
          • Build a code of conduct for journalists and news agencies; 
          • Help maintain “high standards of public taste” and foster responsibility among citizens; and
          • Review developments likely to restrict flow of news.
    • Electronic Media:
      • Today news channels are governed by mechanisms of self-regulation.  
      • One such mechanism has been created by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA).  
        • The NBA has devised a Code of Ethics to regulate television content.  
        • The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), of the NBA, is empowered to warn, admonish, censure, express disapproval and fine the broadcaster a sum upto Rs. 1 lakh for violation of the Code.  
      • Another such organization is the Broadcast Editors’ Association
        • The Advertising Standards Council of India has also drawn up guidelines on content of advertisements. 
      • These groups govern through agreements and do not have any statutory powers.
    • Social Media:
      • Certain standards have been prescribed for content accessible over the internet under the IT Rules 2011.  
        • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has published a fresh draft of amendments to the Information Technology Rules, 2021.
      • Government has also come up with Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.
      • However, a regulatory body such as the PCI or the CBFC does not exist.  Complaints are addressed to the internet service provider or the host. 

    Way ahead

    • Freedom of speech and expression:
      • Freedom of expression incorporated in The Indian Constitution under its Article 19(1) (a) grants freedom of speech and expression to its citizens. 
      • The freedom of press is a necessary element of the freedom of expression that involves a right to receive and impart information without which democracy becomes an empty slogan. 
      • But this right is not absolute and is subjected to the reasonable restrictions of defamation and contempt of court.
    • Regulation of media & Role of civil society:
      • The media should practice better self-regulation.
        • If the government starts regulating the media, the complete purpose would be defeated.
      • An informed, cultivated, and interested civil society can be the best watchdog over politics and the media. 

    Source: TH