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Report No. 200

Whether publications in one part of India do not reach other parts, as stated by Sanyal Committee (1963):

Though the Sanyal Committee, in its Report of 1963, was in favour of the date of arrest being the starting point for defining 'pendency' of a criminal case, and used the word 'imminent' in the Bill, still it made some observations that publication made in one part of the country by the media do not reach other parts of the country, because our country is so vast. That was the position in 1963.

But, in our view, this observation is no longer tenable today in view of the revolutionary changes that have come about in media publications in the last two decades. The new technology has ushered in the television, and cable services, and internet which are today accessible by millions of people in cities, towns and villages. Print media and the radio services too have tremendously increased. News in internet is available globally.

Dissemination of news by the electronic media and internet is so fast that the moment a crime of some significance is alleged to have been committed and somebody is suspected, every News Channel rushes to the place and covers the item within minutes. The suspect is shown on the television or in the internet and almost a parallel inquiry starts. Most newspapers publish their daily newspaper summaries on the web.

By 2002, there have been in India, about 49,000 newspapers of which about 20,000 are in Hindi, over 130 million (13 crores) combined circulation of newspapers all put together, 120 million (12 crores) radio sets with 20% of population regularly listening, 65 million television sets of whom 50% regularly watch the channels, over 35 million households with cable television connections, 21% of population covered by FM radio, nearly 35 million telephones, over 10 million mobile phones, over 5 million computers and internet subscribers. (see article by Dr. Jaya Prakash Narayan in 2002 National Press Day Souvenir published by Press Council of India). in the last 4 years, these figures have galloped further higher.

It is reported in Hindu (30 th August, 2006) that according to National Readership Study (NRS 2006), as on 2006, there are 203.6 million readers of daily newspapers, and together with magazines, it touches 222 million readers. Satellite television has 230 million viewers and television has reached 112 million Indian homes. The number of houses having cable and satellite television has gone up to 68 million. Internet use has reached 9.4 million and has touched 12.6 million in the last three months. Radio reaches 27% of the one billion population.

A new development today is that the suspect goes before a TV channel or to the Press and makes statements of his innocence and this is obviously intended to prevent the police from claiming that the suspect has voluntarily surrendered and confessed to his guilt. Similarly, victims and potential witnesses are also interviewed by the news channels. These technological developments in the media and types of behaviour were not there when the Sanyal Committee in its Report in 1963 stated in one para that our country is so vast that events relating to a crime in one part of the country do not get spread to other parts of the country.

This reasoning is no longer tenable. Some of the television channels are national and some are local, in the sense they publish news in local languages but are part of the same cable network and these channels are accessible in other parts of the country too. Today, cable TV system displays regional TV channels in vernacular languages in various states to cater to the customers who hail from the particular region speaking that local language. In Punjab, you can see news from Kerala or Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu, from language channels which cater to those who hail from these states and vice-versa.

National channels pick up news from regional channels and regional channels pick up news from National channels. Newspapers too have increased circulation than what was in 1970 and another feature is their coverage of news from the states in National dailies and the coverage of District news in local State newspapers. Above all newspapers publish their news items on the world wide web. Hence, the observations of Sanyal Committee are no longer valid.

Trial by Media free speech and fair trial under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 Back

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