The HC said prima facie it is not opposed to airing of BBC's Nirbhaya documentary, it should be released after the Supreme Court decides the appeals of the convicts
Media trials tend to influence judges by subconsciously creating a pressure, the Delhi High Court observed Thursday while hearing a petition on the airing of the controversial documentary on 16th December gangrape case.
A bench of justices BD Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva said although it is prima facie not opposed to airing of the documentary, it should be released after the Supreme Court decides the appeals of the convicts in the matter.
"Media trials do tend to influence judges. Subconsciously a pressure is created and it does have an effect on the sentencing of the accused/ convict," it said in support of its observation.
The bench was of the view that the documentary could "interfere with the justice system" but refused to pass any interim orders saying it has to be decided by an appropriate bench of Chief Justice.
"We are prima facie not opposed to airing of the documentary, but only after the Supreme Court decides the appeals."
"Had it been originally placed before us, we would have asked you to place material before us on why ban be lifted. But it has come here from the roster bench of Chief Justice, so we will not pass any interim orders. Let the roster bench decide it," the court said and listed the matter for hearing on 18th March.
Observing that airing of the video could make or ruin the case of one of the rape convicts, Mukesh, it said, "Whether he has shown remorse or not would be considered at the time of his sentencing. Why not wait till the Supreme Court decision?"
On the contention that ban on airing of the video till apex court judgement could also lead to gag on reporting of all sub-judice matters, the bench said,"We agree."
It said that earlier media had a self-imposed code of not reporting sub-judice matters, but now "media has thrown it (the code) to the winds".
The Central government, represented by advocate Monika Arora, opposed airing of the documentary saying it would give a platform to the convict to air his views and that it also contains derogatory statements against the victim.
She also said that Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry only issued an advisory to cable TV networks to abide by the magisterial court's order banning airing of the documentary.
The petitioners, on the other hand, claimed that as the government failed to control spread of the documentary via Internet and since its viewing by lakhs of people caused no untoward or law and order situation there are no grounds for banning the video.