Media Trials

By: Tripti Pandey


The media is considered one of the four pillars of democracy. And it plays an important role in shaping the opinion of society and has two ability to change the whole attitude through which people make their perceptions on various events.

It is able to change the mass mentality, through its approach. However, with the increase in the role of its Democratic Frontier, its professionalism needs attention and the report cannot be adequately emphasized. This is why we need to understand what media trial are.

The media trial describes the impact of the television and newspaper coverage on a person’s reputation by creation a broad perception of crime despite any decision in a court of law.

When a particular incident is evolved without any constitution, it is also disengaged in the air without any solid evidence and it is done in public form many times, it is called media trial.

Like nowadays we are sitting at home telling who the murderer of Sushant Singh Rajput is.

Media trial is very dangerous, but it can be understood by them only on whom media trial is held. The Supreme Court of India has on several occasion reprimanded the personal news donor or media outlets for running the sensationalism and not the news.

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Trial by the media is a phrase in the late 20th and early 21st centuries that describes the impact of television and newspaper on a person’s reputation by creating a broader perception of crime or innocence before or after a decision in a court of law.

Media Trial, although recently it was interpreted in the case of ROSCOE “FATTY” ARBUCKLE[1], who was acquitted by the court, but lost all his job after being declared guilty by the media.

Another well-known case was the O.J. SIMPSON[2], when the media has promoted the case and deeply influenced the minds of viewers even above the status of court. It is clear that media deeply encourages or influences public opinion.

Another famous case in the US was the trial of RODNEY KING’S[3] incident and the police officers involved later. Once again acquittal is challenged by the media with violent consequences. This makes the case particularly historically significant is the fact that it was amateur video footage that provided major evidence of alleged crime. As video cameras and their digital successors and CCTVs spread widely, caught on this type of camera.

It is often that coverage by the media can be said to reflect the views of a person who walks down the street. Hence, the media acts as a bridge between different individuals and audience. However, with media law coming under scrutiny even more, it has been recognized that media should publish facts about anyone through proofreading, citing credible sources. However, media has been used for both bad and good.

There is no legal system where the media is given power to try a case. In the case of media trials and journalism, in some cases the journalist breaks his reputation and portrays a pre-determined image of an accused that may eventually affect the trial and decision, so by the media trials.

In SUSHANT SINGH RAJPUT[4] case, Bombay High Court did not mince the words pointing to the fact that journalist have lost their neutrality today and the media has become polarized.

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If there is a democracy, then the constitution recognizes that who is the legislature, who is the executive, and who is a judiciary, it is the pillar of democracy but apart from them there is another body which is not a constitutional body. If seen in India, media does not have a constitutional body. But it is considered as a pillar. If seen in constitution of India, Article 19 (1) (a), freedom of press has been recognized as a fundamental right because of its role as it is called fourth pillar of democracy.

The impact of media trial is that the media acts as a watchdog and brings us a platform where people are in a society of things can know about, it is important to know that this has led to favoritism against only one community or one person all over the world. Media trials have misrepresented the alleged accused and acted as a help to destroy their careers only by the fact that he was accused, even though he has not yet been convicted by a court of law.



  1. Media Trial vs. Freedom Of Speech and Expression
  2. Media Trial vs. Fair Trial

Freedom of Speech and Expression is something that works as a pillar inside democracy. Like there are many pillars inside democracy in which a pillar is also Freedom of Speech and Expression under which Freedom of Press also comes.

Freedom of Speech and Expression means keep your ideas, keep your points. In society, it can be in the form of a book. You can do it by writing, through sign, through the pictures, through audio or video, or through internet. There are many ways through which we can keep our points like movies or by news. Freedom of Speech and Expression has many important motives inside democracy. One motive is that a man feels only fulfillment, that is, we are living inside as an India that is we are living in our own thing looks good yes there is not so much pressure on us. We can speak our point. So a human feels a self-fulfillment. They feel that they can speak their own thing. They can keep their own point. How many people are listening and how many people are not listening but we can speak our words, we are not being pressed. Freedom of Speech and Expression plays an important role in the formation of public opinion on social, economic and political. Similarly, a person in power should be able to inform people about his policies and projects. Therefore, it can be said that freedom of speech and expression is the mother of all other liberties. Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. In modern time it is widely accepted that the right to freedom of speech is the essence of free society and it must be safeguarded at all time. The first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum. Liberty to express opinions and ideas without hindrance, and especially without fear of punishment plays significant role in the development of that particular society and ultimately for that state. It is one of the most important fundamental liberties guaranteed against state suppression or regulation. The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression is regarded as one of the most basic elements of a healthy democracy for it allows its citizens to participate fully and effectively in the social and political process of the country.

Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression. The law states that, “all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression”. And under Article 19(2) “reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the exercise of this right for certain purposes.

Any limitation on the exercise of the right under Article 19(1) (a) not falling within the four corners of Article 19(2) cannot be valid. The freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) includes the right to express one’s views and opinions at any issue through any medium, e.g. by words of mouth, writing, printing, picture, film, movie etc.  It thus, includes the freedom of communication and the right to propagate or publish opinion. But this right is subject to reasonable restrictions being imposed under Article 19(2).


Venkataramiah, J. of the Supreme Court of India in case

Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) (P) Ltd. v. Union of India[5]

Has stated: “Freedom of press is the heart of social and political intercourse. The press has now assumed the role of the public educator making formal and non-formal education possible in a large scale particularly in the developing world, where television and other kinds of modern communication are not still available for all sections of society. The purpose of the press is to advance the public interest by publishing facts and opinions without which a democratic electorate Government cannot make responsible judgments. Newspapers being purveyors of news and views having a bearing on public administration very often carry material which would not be palatable to Governments and other authorities.”

Freedom of Press is not specifically mentioned in Article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution and only freedom of speech and expression is mentioned. In the constituent Assembly Debates it was cleared by Dr. Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee, that there is no special mention of the freedom of press was necessary at all as the press and an individual or a citizen were the same as far as the right of expression was concerned.


In case of Romesh Thaper vs. State of Madras[6] and in the case of  Brij Bhushan vs. State of Delhi,[7]

The Supreme Court held that and took it into for granted the fact that the freedom of press was an essential part of the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, freedom speech and expression included propagation of ideas, and that freedom was ensured by the freedom of circulation.

In Printers (Mysore) Ltd. v. CTO [8]

The Supreme Court has reiterated that though freedom of the press is not expressly guaranteed as a fundamental right, it is implicit in the freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of the press has always been a cherished right in all democratic countries and the press has rightly been described as the fourth chamber of democracy.

In R. Rajagopal v. State of T.N[9]

The Supreme Court of India has held that freedom of the press extends to engaging in uninhabited debate about the involvement of public figures in public issues and events. But, as regards their private life, a proper balancing of freedom of the press as well as the right of privacy and maintained defamation has to be performed in terms of the democratic way of life laid down in the Constitution.


Prior to independence there was no constitutional or statutory guarantee of freedom of any person or media or press in India. Most common law can be claimed by the press as seen by the Privy Council by Channing and Arnold vs. King Emperor. Journalist’s Freedom there is a simple part of the freedom of the subject and whatever the length, in general the subject can go, so also became a journalists, but apart from law, his privilege is none other than law ad not more than that. His statement, the extent of his criticisms or his comments is equally wide, and not wider than any other subject. With object and ideas, the Preamble of the Indian Constitution ensures to all citizens inter alia, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. The constitutional significance of the freedom of speech consists in the Preamble of Constitution and is transformed as fundamental and human right in Article 19(1) (a) as “freedom of speech and expression.

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A trial that is seen by a trial judge without being partially seen is a fair trial. The various rights associated with fair trial are expressly declared in the sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 6 of the European convention on Human Rights as well as many other constitution and declarations around the world has no binding international law that defines that there is no fair trial.  Fair Trial is an essential part of the United States judicial system that helps to prevent abortion of justice. The right to a fair trial is defined in many regional and international human rights instruments. It is one of the most widespread human rights and all international human rights instruments vest it in more than one Article. The right to a fair trial is one of the most litigated human rights and substantial case law founded on the interpretation of this human right. The purpose of authority is to ensure proper administration of justice. Civil and Criminal proceeding as a right to minimum trial include the following fair trial rights.

  • the right to be heard by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal
  • the right to a public hearing
  • the right to be heard within a reasonable time
  • the right to interpretation

The right to a fair trial which is unaffected by external pressures is accepted as the basic

Principle of justice in India. Legal provisions for the purpose of acquiring the said rights are   contained under 1971 and under Articles 129 and 215 of the Indian Constitution.


In case of Shalab Kumar Gupta and Ors. v. B.K. Sen and Anr.[10]

It was held by the Supreme court that, there is no doubt that it would be mischievous for a newspaper to systematically investigates a crime for which a man has been arrested and to publish the results of that investigation. This is because the trial by newspaper

S, when the trial is underway by one of the country’s regular tribunals, should be stopped. The basis of this view is that such action on behalf of a newspaper interferes with the course of justice whether the investigation prejudices the accused or the prosecution. There is no comparison between a newspaper trial and what has happened in this case.


In case of Manu Sharma v. State (NCT of Delhi)[11]

the court held that despite the significance of the print and electronic media in the present day, it is not only desirable but the least that is expected of the persons at the helm of affairs in the field, to ensure that trial by media does not hamper fair investigation by the investigating agency and more importantly does not prejudice the right of defense of the accused in any manner whatsoever. It will amount to travesty of justice if either of this causes impediments in the accepted judicious and fair investigation and trial.


In case of Dr. Shashi Tharoor v. Arnab Goswami and Anr.[12]

The court held that it is the function and right of the media to gather and convey information to the public and to comment on the administration of justice, including cases before, during and after trial, without violating the presumption of innocence. In fact, presumption of innocence and a fair trial are at the heart of criminal jurisprudence and in way important facets of a democratic polity that is governed by rule of law. Journalists are free to investigate but they cannot pronounce anyone guilty and/or pre judge the issue and/or prejudice the trial. The grant of the fairest of the opportunity to the accused to prove his innocence is the object of every fair trial. Conducting a fair trial is beneficial both to the accused as well as to the society. A conviction resulting from unfair trial is contrary to the concept of justice.


Several US Supreme Court decisions confirm the potentially dangerous impact that media testing can have.

In the case of Billie Sol Estes,[13]

The US Supreme Court set aside a Texas financier’s sentence for denying his constitutional rights to due process of law, as did extensive and unpleasant television coverage during pre-trial hearings. The court set a rule that the transmission of notorious criminal trials is actually prohibited by the “Procedure of Law “section of Amendment Fourteen.

[1] 1921

[2] 1995

[3] Rodney king case


[4] 2020

[5] (1985) 1 SCC 641


[6] AIR 1950 SC 124

[7] AIR1950 SC 129, 1950 SCR 605

[8] 1994 SCR (1) 682

[9] 1995 AIR 264

[10]1961 AIR 633

[11] 19 April 2010

[12] 1 December 2017

[13] 1965


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