Sushant Singh Rajput Case : A question on journalistic and judicial ethics


Hashtags such as JusticeforSushant and CBIprobeforSushant have been doing rounds on social media for more than two months now. The death of Sushant Singh Rajput on June 14, 2020, shocked the entire country. His death sparked numerous debates about nepotism, with a number of big names being attached to this case. In this article, I am not going to try to solve the case as I am not the expert, or write another article on the star kids. Rather, I will focus on the basic ethics we have forgotten in our plea for justice. 

Free media is regarded as one of the pillars of democracy. In India, trial by media has helped bring justice to cases such as the Jessica Lal case and Nitish Katara case. However, it also drew criticism for the way it reported on the Aarushi Talwar murder case. The indian media often goes berserk when a criminal case comes into limelight, they throw all their good practices and ethics to cater a political agenda. They have yet again gone ahead and cooked up conspiracy theories and have even managed to solve the case even before it was handed over to the CBI. The “9 o’clock prime time judges” have already passed their judgement on this case. They have reincarnated themselves in a ‘public court’ and bringing justice to all. 

Soon after the news of the incident spread like wildfire, whatsapp, twitter, news websites, TV channels and other social media platforms began circulating a picture of the late actor’s body. Indian media, well known for sensationalizing stories for TRPs, a little sanity was expected for not only to respect the departed soul but also for thousands who suffer from mental health issues. Unfortunately, they stuck to their sensationalism and vulture journalism.. Aren’t there guidelines for the media to cover suicide cases? News headlines such as “Arey! Apni hi film dekh lete, Sushant!” (You should have watched your own movie, Sushant!) referring to his movie Chichore which was based on the theme of suicide, and “Sushant zindagi ki pitch par hit-wicket kaise ho gaye” (how did Sushant get ‘hit-wicket’ on life’s pitch) only shows that media houses made a crime drama out of the incident, with utter insensitivity towards the late actor and his family. People need to be reminded that they are not the judges, and the journalists need to remember that they are reporters. They can bring out facts, but cannot pass judgements.

In the time of the pandemic, most people rely on social media or television for entertainment. Whenever I turn on my television, all I see is a new theory being formulated. The actor’s death was indeed unfortunate, but there is no need for a special segment only to bash the whole film industry. The pandemic has been long forgotten, now one can only find one line in the news headline updating people about the number of cases. In comparison to that, headlines such as ‘Top 10 developments in the Sushant Singh Rajput case’ is being broadcasted repeatedly. Even the witnesses whose statements have been recorded by the police are being paraded on social media. And if this case goes to the court, all of this can backfire. Unfortunately, in the race for getting higher TRPs, people have failed to talk about what may have pushed the actor to take such a step. And that is what we need to focus on. As the nation battles the pandemic, several people die by suicide every year, and in recent times there have been news of several TV actors. However, people have already come to the conclusion of them not having any work and dismissed all other reasons. Only because they weren’t famous enough? Because big names weren’t attached to the case? Any conversation around mental health has quickly been clouded by sensationalism.These strong emotions could have been channeled into a good cause. People should be motivated to have an honest and open discussion regarding mental health. Unfortunately, the media gives more importance to sensationalism than sensibility,proving that the term ‘presstitute’ has been correctly coined for them

All boundaries have been crossed in this case, and politics has added another layer to this puzzle.The whole point of having a separate judicial system is that there shouldn’t be any political interference in the investigation. Political parties in Bihar have been using the actor’s origin to increase their popularity. Personally, I didn’t even know that the actor belonged to Bihar because it did not matter, all that mattered was that he was good at his job. Many politicians had demanded for a CBI probe, which was a fair demand. However, some have taken it to another level with theories of murder and that he had bipolar disorder. These are some big accusations to make. Were people waiting for such a case to shed light on their personal agenda? Moreover, the news about Mumbai Police and Bihar police was disturbing to hear. Especially, at a time when police forces have been regularly making an occurrence in the news. This was their one time to show that they actually work instead of abusing their position. The law enforcement agencies make a lot of noise in India. Arrests are turned into controversial stories, then when the case reaches the court, the case falls apart as the investigation is sloppy. As a result, nothing comes out of the case. 

In my concluding remarks, I would like the readers to remember that do not form your opinion about an event based on what is broadcasted on social media. Do your research and then form an opinion, not a judgement. 

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