While declining bail to Ashish Mishra, the son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra, in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case, the Allahabad High Court has commented on media trial, in the context of the case.

After noting that both the sides, the accused and the victim have referred certain pictures and audio visuals that were taken up from social media, Justice Krishan Pahal observed, "The media is supposed to provide news to the society, but sometimes we have seen that individual views are overshadowing the news thus putting an adverse effect on truth. Of late, media is seen overstepping upon the sanctity of judiciary in high profile criminal cases, as was evident in the cases of Jessica Lal, Idrani Mukherjee and Aarushi Talwar etc."

The Bench also observed that a three Judge Bench of Justice R.M. Lodha, found the issue to be very serious and even considered to frame a few guidelines in order to balance the interest and rights of the stake holders, referring to 2014 remarks of the Bench while hearing a plea of NGO PUCL regarding fake encounters by police and media's handling of terror cases.

The Court observed that the vital difference between the convict and accused has to be looked into by keeping at stake the cardinal principles of 'presumption of innocence until proven guilty' and 'guilt beyond reasonable doubt'. "Media trial apart from taking up the investigation on its own leads to forming public opinion against the suspect even before the court takes cognizance of the case as a result the accused who should have been presumed innocent is treated a criminal. The excessive publicity of the suspect in the media before the trial in a court of law, either incriminates a fair trial or results in characterizing the accused or suspect as the one who has certainly committed the crime. The reason the jury members were kept aloof of the access to media was obvious. Classic examples of the menace are the cases of K.M. Nanawati and O.J. Simpson", the Court remarked.

Commenting on media trial, the Court observed, "Now the problem has been multiplied by the electronic and social media especially with the use of tool kits. At various stages and forums, it has been seen that ill-informed and agenda driven debates are being undertaken by media running Kangaroo Courts".

The Court also observed that the District Administration had issued a proclamation under Section 144 Cr.P.C., which was in effect on the date of incident and was "equally applicable to not only the applicant and his associates, but also to the agitating/protesting farmers. The same has not been followed by either of the parties".

The Court also noted that the change of route of the Chief Guest was an "open secret", as it was known to one and all including the applicant and the protestors.

The Court declined bail to the accused citing that the vehicle involved in the incident was registered in the name of father of Ashish Mishra and he was seen in the vehicle recovered from the spot, although he was not seen driving it and that two FIRs have been lodged for the witnesses being threatened.

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With PTI inputs