Justice Impossible Unless Rhea Chakraborty Gets A Fair Trial

Amnesty International India
New Delhi / Bengaluru:: 10 September 2020 2:17 pm

Responding to a smear campaign run by mainstream media channels against Rhea Chakraborty, an Indian actor for her alleged involvement in the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, the Executive Director of Amnesty International India, Avinash Kumar said:

“The right to a fair and impartial trial is paramount to ensuring justice. Denial of this right is as much an injustice to the accused as it is to the victim. The manner in which certain individuals including Rhea Chakraborty and her family have been vilified by media channels impedes this right. Media agencies must definitely play a role in holding justice mechanisms accountable, but they are not a substitute for a fair and effective legal process.”

The right to a fair trial, guaranteed by the Constitution of India and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a state party, includes the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The ICCPR along with the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) also protects a woman’s privacy, safety and other human rights during a trial. While the media channels are entitled to their right to freedom of speech, this freedom must avoid interference with the administration of justice at all costs.

“There has been a slew of misogynistic comments, media pieces and speculative information that have been spread about Rhea Chakraborty over the past two months. The coverage of this case has garnered huge spectatorship that has resulted in a number of instances of online violence and abuse against Rhea. Media coverage that surmise and denigrate her character and behaviour, serve no purpose. Condoning these practices distances the victims from justice and the accused from a fair trial and hampers our progress towards gender equality,” said Avinash Kumar.

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Background:

On 14 June 2020, actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his apartment in Mumbai.

Two weeks after this, on 28 July, the actor’s father, KK Singh, lodged a complaint in Patna, Bihar against Rhea Chakraborty (the actor’s alleged girlfriend), her family and few others alleging that they had abetted the death of his son. In the complaint, Rhea was accused of extortion of money, abetment of suicide and other crimes.

Three central investigating authorities, the Enforcement Directorate, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are currently in the midst of investigating the cases filed against Rhea Chakraborty.

Over the next month, media outlets and the public have taken to gendered victimization of Rhea publicly accusing her of being a “witch” and “gold digger”, as well as slut-shaming her. Rhea’s right to privacy has also been violated with her private messages being shared and discussed extensively on news channels.

On 28 August, the Press Council of India put forth a media advisory warning journalists to ensure privacy and not to publicise the victims, witnesses, suspects, or accused. The advisory also asked media outlets to refrain from sensationalising the case.

On 6 September, Rhea Chakraborty was called for questioning to the NCB. She was mobbed by media persons flouting physical distancing norms amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 8 September, Rhea Chakraborty was arrested under several sections of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. After her arrest, several news channels termed it as a “victory” and “game over”.

Featured image credit: PTI

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