The Kerala High Court in a notable direction has said that stringent action would be initiated against media houses and police officers who 'leak' confession statements of accused persons in cases which are sub-judice. Justice P V Kunhikrishnan made the observation on Thursday while considering the bail plea of Jolly Amma Joseph, key accused in the sensational Koodathayi serial murder case.
The court noted that in sensational cases, investigating officers are leaking confession statements of the accused and the media is giving wide publicity to it.
The court observed that if a first information report (FIR) is registered in a case and if it is forwarded to a magistrate, then the matter is sub-judice and "no police officer has the right to leak out information..until the final report is eventually filed before the court."
In the order, the court has multiple times mentioned that there will be stringent action, which can have "serious consequences", against the media and the investigating officers.
"This court cannot sit as a silent spectator in the criminal justice delivery system. If the confessions statement and other materials collected during investigation are discussed in the media and divulged to the general public, the situation will be perilous," the order states.
It adds that the public might not know that a confession statement given by an accused to the police is not legal evidence in court. "If a court of law decides a case based on legal evidence, the public may suspect even the judiciary if the present situation of divulging confession statements and other materials collected during investigation is leaked like this," it said.
A full stop is necessary, the court added. The court went on to say that reporters and anchors of news channels should read section 24 (confession caused by inducement, threat or promise, when irrelevant in criminal proceedings) of the Indian Evidence Act and other similar acts "before framing headlines" on news based on confession statements.
The court also said that this direction would be sent to the Director General of Police so that if there is any violation regarding this in the future, disciplinary action could be taken.
Meanwhile, the court granted bail to Jolly in the case but since she was denied bail in other multiple cases against her, the accused will remain in jail. The trial proceedings in the Koodathayi serial murder case are underway.