Invasion of Media in The Right to Privacy 

    Media is a channel of communication that directly and indirectly connects people, including publications, broadcasting, and the internet. Media has developed with time and has made the dissemination of information easier in this contemporary world. It plays a very imperial role in Indian society, whether it is a democracy or other myriad affairs of the state. Hence, it is called the fourth pillar of Indian democracy. It creates awareness among the public regarding the other three pillars of Indian governance, which are Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary. 

    Introduction

    Media has entered almost every sphere of our lives, connecting us to both local and global communities. These days social media is one of the most popular platforms. They have become the most preferred pedestals for sharing information and glaring social issues. It is becoming the primary source of information, especially for the younger generation. Hence, it has been creating a significant impact on young minds. Apart from informing people about all the social, political, and economic matters prevailing in our country. Oftentimes, it tends to violate an individual’s right to privacy by publicizing his/her/their issues. This is where the subject of the right to privacy arises. The right to privacy is a fundamental right of every citizen of India interpreted by the Supreme Court of India under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. 

    Role of Media 

    Media has become an intrinsic part of our lives in this modern world. Therefore, it has an evident impact on us. This effect has both positive as well as negative aspects. The most important positive aspect is the easy accessibility of information and creating awareness about relevant news from all around the world in a second. It helps to know the world’s political, social, and economic matters quickly. As for the negative aspect, the media can breach the right to privacy of an individual, by socializing some private concerns of a public personality, exciting the news from their point of view, perhaps even exaggerating the matter at hand. An important example would be media live telecasting the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and thereby exacerbating the matters of public security and safety.[1] 

    Rights To Privacy 

    The simplest definition of privacy is that the state is secure from public intervention without permission. The right to privacy is a fundamental right recognized as a bone of contention for the Judiciary of India. In the judgment of M.P Sharma v. Satish Chandra[2] and Kharak Singh v. The State of Uttar Pradesh [3], it was held that the right to privacy is not a fundamental right guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. In these cases, the judiciary adopted a very conservative approach to interpreting the term “personal liberty.” But in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India [4], the Supreme Court added that the right to life and personal liberty also includes living with personal dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Post the judgment in this landmark case; the court has continued on the path of a liberal interpretation of Article 21, including the right to privacy. 

    In an unprecedented and historic judgment in the case of Puttaswamy v. Union of India [5], the right to privacy was declared as a fundamental right, falling under the ambit of Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution because it particularly exist as in the right to life and liberty. It was also declared that this right is a fundamental and inalienable right protecting all personal information of every citizen from even state scrutiny. Therefore, any act of anyone, including the state, which infringes on the right to privacy of an individual is subject to strict judicial scrutiny. However, it was clarified that the right to privacy is now considered a fundamental right, but it is still dependent upon the adherence of reasonable restrictions. 

    Impact of Media on Privacy 

    The media coverage of the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks displayed a lack of restraint, where the live telecasting by media in a certain way, affected the police. There was no new information revealed by the media about the terror attack or what emphasized the gravity of the attack, but the information, in turn, helped the terrorists involved. 

    One of the senior journalists spoke about the report published on the Mumbai terror attack on 26/11. The report agreed with the fact that the media had overstepped their limits during this coverage of the terror attacks in Mumbai[6]. According to this, violation of privacy takes place in two stages; the first one says when you exceeded your limits and asked questions out of the box which you should not have to ask and the other one is when you publish that information all over the globe. Reflecting on her ten years of reporting experience, she said, Sometimes because of the competition of reporting or getting the story before their competitor, reporters make the story more seasoned and ruthless. Besides, although Public Sector Information (PSI) norms and not many read the Press Council of India (PCI) norms or we can call it journalistic ethics that they are reporting on the field.[7]

    In the case of any public representative or such a high-profile person, the right privacy afforded to them is not to the same degree as that of any common person. The Press Council of India has laid down a few norms for journalistic conduct which recognize privacy as an inviolable human right, and it depends on circumstances and the person concerned. 

    In the landmark case of the Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agrawal[8], the court recognized the tension between the right to information and the right to privacy, especially with respect to public persons. The case arose from an application filed by a citizen seeking information under the Right to Information Act on whether judges of the high court and the supreme court were filing asset declarations under the full resolution of the Supreme Court. The court held that information concerning private individuals held by public authority falls within the ambit of the right to information act. It remarked that whereas public persons are entitled to privacy like private persons, the privacy afforded to private individuals is more significant than that afforded to those in public authority, especially in certain circumstances. 

    In 2010, Sunanda Pushkar and an individual perceived as a close friend of the Minister of State for External Affairs were reported by the media, who own a significant holding in the IPL team of Kochi. This media exposure of this coverage led Mr. Shashi Tharoor to exit from the government and also questioning Pushkar’s legitimacy in holding. The media’s reporting on her past relationship and how she dressed had no connection or bearing on public interest or accountability. [9] The press accused Pushkar of taking Rs. 70 crore, a sweat equity deal from Tharoor for playing proxy. At the same time, the media’s attention is mainly focused on her personal life instead of how she achieved such a significant stake in the IPL team Kochi. The media minutely analyzed her success and failures so as to question her ability and also accused her of having ambition and greed for money and power. [10]

    https://legalreadings.com/theft-of-intellectual-property-in-india/

    Media Victimization and Media Trails 

    In the case of Bofors Pay-Off [11], the Delhi High Court said that “the fairness of the trial is of preeminent importance as without such protection there would be trial by media which no civilized society can tolerate.”[12] The functions cannot be obscured by any of the authorities in this civilized society. The right to a fair trial is as valuable as the right to information and freedom of communication, but it should be for a reasonable cause. 

    The Press Council of India warns the journalists not to give excessive publicity to victims, witnesses, accused, and suspects because it amounts to an invasion of privacy. This happened in the Gujarat Best Bakery case [13], where Zahira Sheikh was a key witness and was a victim of overweening media coverage and sympathy. She was turned hostile by the amount of media speculation and wrath. Because of this, her life was possibly endangered. The media focused on the lack of a witness protection program instead of focusing on the circumstances of the case, which consisted of several twists and turns and her conflicting statements. 

    In the case of M.P Lohia v. State of Bengal [14], the Supreme Court strongly deprecated the media for interfering with the matter of administration of justice by publishing one-sided articles touching on the merits of the pending case according to their opinion. 

    In the very famous case popularly known as ‘Delhi Gang Rape’ or ‘Nirbhaya Case,’ the media leaked every small detail about the victim’s private parts and other confidential information, which should not have been publicly revealed without her consent. Therefore, it violated her right to privacy. [15] 

    Another instance indicating the failure of the press to maintain boundaries was in the case of Sushant Singh Rajput, where Rhea Chakraborty was being mobbed by the media. She was accused of allegedly driving Sushant Singh Rajput to commit suicide. She was also accused of cheating on him financially, but ethically she could not be held liable until the court’s decision. The media’s behavior was barbaric, and it threw light on the unfortunate state of journalism in the country. The main motive of the media, in this case, was to accuse her anyway, whether it was the death of the actor or the fact that she was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau. The tragic death of Sushant Singh Rajput brought the media’s attention to his live-in partner for all the wrong reasons. It may be true and sad, but no one can blame her without any official statement by the court. Due to the support of the media, the common people’s pursuit of vilifying and harassing a woman, whose role in the actor’s death was yet to be disclosed, was successful. She was also accused of murder. People called her a ‘witch’ and gave her rape threats over social media. Apart from this, the media was vigilantly focusing on a single activity and publishing every personal detail, thereby violating her right to privacy. People persistently hounded and prosecuted her on the basis of their own assumptions. Chats were leaked between the actress and were flashed on television and social media with the help of the media. Endless speculation by a large section of society assassinated her character.[16] 

    Few more instances shed light upon such awful public behavior when Anushka Sharma was abused and criticized several times over by the media when Virat Kohli underperformed on the cricket pitch.[17] Sania Mirza has also been targeted on various occasions for the failure of her husband’s performance on the sports field.[18] 

    Conclusion

    According to the democracy of India, the media is the fourth pillar under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. It is a fundamental right, but at the same time, it cannot be allowed to cross its domain under the garb of the right to freedom of speech and expression. The media cannot misuse its right to freedom of speech and expression by violating someone’s privacy as every citizen has the right to life and liberty, which includes the right to privacy as well. The media cannot interfere to that extent. 

    The court has to evolve techniques or measures for balancing both the rights given equal value and space in the Constitutional Scheme, which cannot violate the right to freedom of speech and expression as well as the right to privacy. It is undeniable that the media have the right to freedom of speech and expression, but the reasonability of the right to privacy cannot be neglected. Hence, the right to privacy cannot be infringed because of the right to speech and expression.

    References 

    [1] India Today, November 26, 2011. 

    [2] AIR 1954 SC 300.

    [3] AIR 1963 SC 1295.

    [4] AIR 1978 SC 597.

    [5] AIR 2017 SC 4161.

    [6] Interview with Senior Assistant Editor, Hindustan Times, April 18, 2011. 

    [7] Ibid

    [8] (2011) 1 SCC 496.

    [9] PTI, “Media just turned me into ‘slut’ in IPL row: Sunanda Pushkar” The Times of India, April 23, 2010.

    [10] Vrinda Gopinath,“Got a Girl, Named Sue”, available at Got A Girl, Named Sue, Outlook India Magazine, April 26, 2010. 

    [11] Bofors Pay-Off Crl. Misc. (Main) 3938/2003.

    [12] Ibid

    [13] Zahira Habibulla H. Sheikh and Another v. State of Gujarat, [(2005) 2 SCC 86]. 

    [14] (2005) 2 SCC 686.

    [15] Mukesh & Anr vs. State for NCT of Delhi & Ors. [(2017) 6 SCC 1] S.L.P (Criminal) Nos. 5027-5028 of 2014.

    [16] Sumati Sen Digital Journalist The Logical Indian, September 9, 2020, available at thelogicalindian.com, (Last Visited on May 10, 2021)

    [17] The Times of India, January 6, 2018.

    [18] Abhimanyu Mathur, “Poor performance of Cricketers? ICC World Cup 2019”, The Times of India 2019. 


    BY- JUHI MAHESHWARI | NEW LAW COLLEGE

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