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The media cannot convict anyone or insinuate that someone is guilty during pendency of trial, the Delhi High Court said today and asked a TV channel to be "tempered and balanced" in airing news on the Sunanda Pushkar death case. "The culture of thrusting a microphone in the face of a person needs to be deprecated," though the media's right to cover news cannot be curbed, the high court said. In a 61-page judgement, Justice Manmohan observed that an individual affected by a news story "must be given an option to give his version, but he cannot be compelled to speak if he does not want to". The court said every individual or an accused "has a right to silence" which needs to be respected. Though the media has the right to cover stories which cannot be curbed, the court said it has to be sensitive while reporting matters under investigation and exercise "care and caution". The court made the observations while dealing with three applications of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor seeking to restrain journalist Arnab Goswami and Republic TV from airing news with regard to his wife Sunanda Pushkar's death case. It declined to restrain the journalist and the TV channel on the issue, but said they should seek Tharoor's version before airing news on his wife's death. It held that in this case, the TV channel and the news anchor "have the right to air their stories and the same cannot be curbed, but it has to be tempered and balanced". "This court is of the view that it is important that when criminal investigation has commenced, media reporting should be sensitive to the indeterminacy of the questions raised in the proceedings. "Press cannot convict anyone or insinuate that he/she is guilty or make any other unsubstantiated claims.
Press has to exercise care and caution while reporting about matters under investigation or pending trial," it observed. It also said in the judgement that "no blanket winning right can be declared because the rights are neither absolute, nor in any hierarchal order, since they are of equal value. "There is need to balance which has to be done on case to case basis," it added.
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