Innocent until proven guilty, or guilty until proven innocent? 

As the Hon’ble Bombay High Court advised media to practice restraint while covering Sushant Singh Rajput’s Death Case, I began wondering: are we really living in the rule of law our forefathers envisioned? This form of media vigilantism, sensationalising the case and creating a public outcry, which in the process subverts, or at least undermines, the due processes of the legal system cannot be what the champions of freedom of speech fathom when they advocate for an unrestrained media. 
I am reminded of a scene from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The scene is one where Antony delivers his speech that is revered even today: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him…” After Antony’s speech, the blood-thirsty mob, which until now was clueless as to who killed Ceaser and why, takes matters into its own hands. That’s the typical mob. Once something happens, it needs to know why it happened and who was responsible. The mob does not have a mind of its own and its memory is short-lived. Isn’t this what we witness in all media trials?  

Though Antonio didn’t lie about the intentions of Ceaser’s brutal assassination, the mob, nevertheless, didn’t care for a verification. Any piece of information was enough to rile them up. It is these emotions that drive the public actions after every crime. They need to know who did it and they need to know it asap. They have no means to verify if the story being told to them is indeed representative of the whole picture or even, the true picture. Be it the Vikas Dubey encounter, or Telangana shooting of the alleged rapists, we often see little wisdom in the mob’s sentiment and yet it is this sentiment which gives media the direction for framing its narratives. And this is why we are no stranger to the sight of media persons demanding an entry into the accused’s premises and asserting it as if it were their right; or shoving their mics into their noses as they step out of the house, accessing personal chats between two persons and publishing them without knowledge of the original context, often leaving the viewer to read it in the context of the crime committed, and so on. The job of media is to provide information where it is due. Investigative-journalism is great as long as it does not turn into plainly ‘accusatory-journalism’.

So, isn’t it high time that the media be prohibited from ‘deciding’ the culpability in an ongoing investigation or trial? Though the party has the option to seek injunction, restraining all media outlets from tarnishing his/her image, should there not be a blanket regulation prohibiting such behaviour per se, and penalizing for its violation? Press is the fourth pillar of democracy, but wouldn’t stretching one pillar longer than the other make the whole building tumble, and eventually collapse? And this is not to discredit the fantastic job the media has done over the years, sometimes to even unearth the facts that would have otherwise been lost, but it should be called out when it exceeds its domain and indulges in a brazen mockery of the rule of law. 
Let us now look at some of the famous media-trials in the history of India, and see what the Hon’ble Courts observed:
  1. KM Nanavati v/s State of Bombay: Responsible for ending the jury system in India, this sensational case has been the topic of various dramatic adaptations, and rightly so. This case is a classic example of how the media garnered sympathy for an accused whom the court eventually found guilty of murder, and the same wave of emotions impacted the jury. Though a judge is trained to be not swayed by such attempts to influence his conscience and better judgment, the jury could do a little to help itself. The story of a man, in love with his wife, who killed another man who dared bat an eye upon his wife and take advantage of his long absences spoke to the masses more than any rule of law, and the media had a pivotal role in it. The print media in those days highlighted as to how when a decorated naval officer was serving the nation, his friend was making acquaintance with his wife, and upon finding out about their affair, the officer killed the man to protect his honour, and to uphold the love he had for his wife. The jury’s eventual acquittal of Nanavati had more to do with the justifications Nanavati’s acts that the media was feeding them than on any legal ground. KM Nanavati was eventually convicted by the Court but obtained a pardon from the then President of India.
  2. Dr. (Smt.) Nupur Talwar v/s State Of U.P. and Another (Arushi Murder Case): This should be fresh in all our memories as it isn’t as old as the Nanavati Case. The mystery of a girl, killed in her own room, with no signs of forced entry, and later on discovery of the dead body of the servant shook the nation, and it was this mystery and the need to solve it that the media banked upon and launched its own parallel investigation. We also saw the main accused in the media trial: the father of the girl being convicted and later being acquitted by the Hon’ble Allahabad High Court due to lack of evidence, something perceived as a major victory against the media trial that had ensued ever since that fateful night. In dismissing the trial court verdict, the Hon’ble High Court had given the following word of caution: “Pointer is that the trial Judge should evaluate evidence in its existing form, should not tinge it with his passionate reasoning so as to give a different construction than the one which is naturally reflected and forthcoming. Caution enjoins on the trial Judge that he should exercise self-restraint from deliberately twisting facts in arbitrary manner and should refrain from recording finding on strength of wrong premise by virulent and meandering reasoning. The entire judgment is on the whole creation of fanciful reasoning with pick and choose presuming facts with indomitable obstinancy and taking things for granted, thus, basing conclusion on unfounded evidence. The trial Judge is supposed to be fair and transparent and should act as a man of ordinary prudence and he should not stretch his imagination to infinity - rendering the whole exercise mockery of law.”
  3. Court on Its Own Motion v/s State, on 14 December, 2007: Famously called the fake string operation case, this case is a glaring example of media desperation. Herein, Ms. Uma Khurana, a Delhi school teacher was caught on camera, set-up as a part of a sting operation upon her, purportedly forcing a girl student into prostitution. Subsequent to its telecast, a crowd gathered at the school gate and started raising slogans demanding handing over of Ms. Uma Khurana to them. In the commotion and mayhem that followed, some persons physically attacked her and even tore her clothes. She was later dismissed from her service. But after investigation it was found that the girl who had been shown as a student who was allegedly being forced into prostitution by Ms. Uma Khurana was neither a school girl nor a prostitute but, in the words of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court, “..a budding journalist eager to make a name in the media world’, and was staged on account of a rivalry.” The Hon’ble Court observed: “The duty of the press as the fourth pillar of democracy is immense. It has great power and with it comes increasing amounts of responsibility. No doubt the media is well within its rightful domain when it seeks to use tools of investigative journalism to bring us face to face with the ugly underbelly of the society. However, it is not permissible for the media to entice and try to actively induce an individual into committing an offence which otherwise he is not known and likely to commit. In such cases there is no predisposition. If one were to look into our mythology even a sage like Vishwamitra succumbed to the enchantment of "Maneka". It would be stating the obvious that the Media is not to test individuals by putting them through what one might call the "inducement test" and portray it as a scoop that has uncovered a hidden or concealed truth. In such cases the individual may as well claim that the person offering inducement is equally guilty and a party to the crime, that he/she is being accused of. This would infringe upon the individual's right to privacy.” The Hon’ble Court enlisted certain proposed guidelines and observed that proposed guidelines should be considered by the concerned Ministry and if they find favour, they may be incorporated in the enactment/guidelines, with modifications as deemed fit and proper.
  4. Nuzhat Perween v/s State of U.P. and Another: Also known as Dr. Kafeel Khan Case. Dr. Khan was arrested and detained from Mumbai earlier this year, for allegedly giving a provocative speech at the Aligarh Muslim University, amidst the anti-CAA protests, and NSA was slapped on him. In the judgment passed earlier this week, The Hon’ble Allahabad High Court held that prima facie, the speech is not such that a reasonable man could have arrive at a conclusion as the inference drawn by the District Magistrate, Aligarh, who passed the detention order against Dr. Khan. The Court observed: “The address gives a call for national integrity and unity among the citizens. The speech also deprecates any kind of violence. It appears that the District Magistrate had selective reading and selective mention for few phrases from the speech ignoring its true intent.” Thus, in absence of any "causal link" between the Act and the detention order, the Court acquitted Dr. Khan. But this came after months of media trial and coverage, repeatedly playing only excerpts of his speech, and indicating that he’s guilty.
  5. Zahira Habibullah Sheikh v/s State of Gujarat: The Gujrat Riots were again, highly covered in the media, and several books have been written upon it. This case is of Zahira, who turned into a hostile witness citing external threats to her. In this case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, opining on a fair trial explained that a “fair trial obviously would mean a trial before an impartial Judge, a fair prosecutor and atmosphere of judicial calm. Fair trial means a trial in which bias or prejudice for or against the accused, the witnesses, or the cause which is being tried is eliminated.” This, needless to say, is in total contrast to what happens in a media trial. In Zahira’s case, she was sentenced for turning hostile, despite the media sentiment supporting her turning hostile due to external threats she cited.
  6. Kartongen Kemi Och Forvaltning AB and Ors. v/s State through CBI: is a case dealing with the alleged Bofors Scam. This was highly publicized in the media and they suggested their own conclusions although they didn’t have any access to the actual official documents. Upon the media sensationalization of the case with active involvement of the CBI, the Hon’ble Court observed: “It is said and to great extent correctly that through media publicity those who know about the incident may come forward with information, it prevents perjury by placing witnesses under public gaze and it reduces crime through the public expression of disapproval for crime and last but not the least it promotes the public discussion of important issues. All this is done in the interest of freedom of communication and right of information little realizing that right to a fair trial is equally valuable.” The Hon’ble Court also discouraged the practice of the authorities aiding media trial and observed: “Latest trend of police or CBI or Investigating Agency encouraging publicity by holding press conference and accompanying journalists and television crew during investigation of a crime needs to be stopped as it creates risk of prejudice to the accused. After hogging publicity and holding the person guilty in the eyes of public, police and CBI go into porific slumber and take years in filing the charge sheet and thereafter several years are taken in the trial.
  7. State of Maharashtra v/s Rajendra Jawanmal Gandhi: This case concerned the rape of a minor girl, and saw huge media coverage, public outcry, and demands of taking the accused person’s life. The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed: “There is procedure established by law governing the conduct of trial of a person accused of an offence. A trial by press, electronic media or public agitation is very antithesis of rule of law. It can well lead to miscarriage of justice. A judge has to guard himself against any such pressure and is to be guided strictly by rules of law. If he finds the person guilty of an offence he is then to address himself to the question of sentence to be awarded to him in accordance with the provisions of law.” This judgment captures the very essence of the follies of a media trial where Hon’ble Justice HR Khanna says: “Certain aspects of a case are so much highlighted by the press that the publicity gives rise to strong public emotions. The inevitable effect of that is to prejudice the case of one party or the other for a fair trial. We must consider the question as to what extent are restraints necessary and have to be exercised by the press with a view to preserving the purity of judicial process. At the same time, we have to guard against another danger. A person cannot, as I said speaking for a Full Bench of the Delhi High Court in 1969, by starting some kind of judicial proceedings in respect of matter of vital public importance stifle all public discussions of that matter on pain of contempt of court. A line to balance the whole thing has to be drawn at some point. It also seems necessary in exercising the power of contempt of court or legislature vis-à-vis the press that no hyper-sensitivity is shown and due account is taken of the proper functioning of a free press in a democratic society. This is vital for ensuring the health of democracy. At the same time the press must also keep in view its responsibility and see that nothing is done as may bring the courts or the legislature into disrepute and make the people lose faith in these institutions.”
The idiot-box, which our parents told us to be weary of while growing up has, for good or bad taken various forms now. It now at times glares at you via your 6-inch screen that you carry with you on the bus, and into your beds. The information spreads like wildfire now, and so does mis-information. And, does anyone really know of an accused’s culpability before the trial? 

Here is a suggestive list of books that you can study from, to crack the examination. You can replace them with other books of your liking. They key is to not exhaust yourself with books that are too bulky or books that have too less content.

Bare Acts of the following subjects would suffice. But if you have trouble grasping any section, you can refer to AK Jain of these:

They say a good writer is one who writes about his own experiences, a great one who writes about the experiences of others. I disagree. There’s only with such depth and with such ardent details one can write about the experiences of others, and that’s why I’m going to tell you my story.


“Sam! Get up!”


“Get up, Sam! I’ve been calling you since an hour now. I am leaving for my Yoga class. Get up or you’ll be late, which I am sure you do not want to be.”

“Okay Mom.”

“Breakfast is on the table. Eat it before you leave. I am leaving now. Bye!”


The alarm in the phone beeps again. Sam switches it off and gets up, now realizing that it is 9am and there is no way he will make it to the office before 10 if he stays in bed any longer. Hurriedly, he jumps off the bed as if a bee stung him on his leg, and goes to his washroom.

Sam lives in a dainty flat in Dwarka, Sector 3 with his Mother for some eight years now. His father had passed away when he was a boy of two. Sam doesn’t remember much of him. He feels bad for his mother, though. Sometimes, watching her handle everything alone and go about without a companion makes him want to give her everything she ever desires.

“You can marry again, you know. I will not have any problem. Rather, I will appreciate you getting some help and more happiness.” He had told his mother several times, to which she always gave the same reply “All I need is you, Sam. You be good. That’s all I want.”

“Oh damn it!”

The uninvited February rains had graced Sam’s first day to the office while he was just a few blocks away from the destined building. He would have to find a taxi soon. He would hate to show up on the first day of the internship, with his 6ft figure drenched from head to toe. He hadn’t ofcourse, grabbed the breakfast that his mother had so meticulously prepared even though she half-knew he wouldn’t have the time to eat it. She worried for Sam’s boyish attitude the most. “He is the best son!” she would tell almost instantly to anyone asking her if she had trouble with raising a son all on her own, without a father to discipline him. Not that she did not believe it. She believed every ounce of emotion that that sentence could carry. He really was a good son. At the age of 21 he had grown up to be such a wonderful lad. All his worry and care reminded her of his father all the time. Oh, how he used to worry about the minutest of things when it came to her. And, later when they had a beautiful baby boy, he would do no less with his affairs too. Little did he know one day they will have to fight their own worries without him. But Rekha didn’t have much to complain about. Not now when she had made her peace with the horrific car accident. Not anymore when all her struggles seemed to have paid off in terms of how perfect her little boy was growing up to be. She knew that no matter what life throws at them now, she and Sam will find a way.

Time can be your best friend and your worst enemy based on how you manage it. Talking of judicial services examination preparation, where the notifications are neither assured nor regular, you'd want to be on your toes and have the syllabus on your tips. 
I have already discussed as to how you can begin your preparation and what you should study. I'll take up only one topic in this blogpost: time.
Much has been said and written abut time and no, I am not going to lecture you on how you should clear your exam on time. I will attempt to illustrate as to how something as simple as a study-plan can help you maximise your study-time and stay productive throughout. This will ofcourse, all be in the backdrop of my experiences and little tricks I used to end the monotony. Since school-time, I love to jot things down, I love to make lists. For my boards, I would write down the subjects on a piece of paper, then I would allocate time to each subject, then I would do it all topic-wise, and in the process I had a realistic knowledge of my speed and saturation level, and the list was modified accordingly. Similarly, with the judicial services examination, there are two things I absolutely loved to do: Make study plans, and make my personal 'notes-copy'. Let me elaborate on this notes-copy a bit here. It was a standard notebook, not bulky at all. It had notes for all the 'light' subjects of the examination, and I made them in such a way that they covered the important cases, topics that have been asked before, concepts I'd like to stress on, and a Smriti-fied version of the Bare Act. Yup! Once I made this master-piece, I never opened the bare Act again. It contained all the elements of the bare provision and was written in a very simple, easy to remember language. But the beauty of these notes was not what it contained but that I made them after multiple readings of the Bare Act, my class-notes, previous year questions, and other resources. Each subject took not more than 20 pages and I would only read this one notebook after I made it. Afterall, it had all I needed. This one thing which was not a necessity and at best, a compulsive behavior, made revision a cake-walk for me. But more on it in another post, I have already deviated alot. Let us get back to the study-plan or time-table, whatever you may like to call it. 
Your study is incomplete without a study plan. Creating a realistic deadline for yourself will push you, it will create the required pressure as well as motivation for you to reach your goals. And how do you do it, you ask? Well, you already know my answer: by making a study time-table. Yes, this is the correct term for what I am talking about. Though wholly unrelated,many great books tell us that the most successful people create a list of things they have to finish by the day's end, in the morning itself. It gives them a head-start. Read Robin Sharma's 5 am Club sometime. He stresses upon this habit too. A study plan is just like that, and serves the same purpose. Afterall, 'the man who is prepared has his battle half fought!'
In this post I said that once you have a fair idea of the subjects, you should time your revisions. The exact time varies with every person's reading speed, level of clarity in the subject, and other commitments. Do make a note of how much time you took to initially complete a subject. This should give you some idea. Then set realistic goals. You can see my time-table below:

There are four features of my study-plan:
  1. I allocated time to each subject according to its length. Where Specific Relief Act did not even get a complete day Code of Civil Procedure was allocated three days. Then again, you should not attempt to stick by these time-allocations strictly if your pace is different or you have classes, office or other thing to tend to. 
  2. In order to ensure that the day does not become monotonous, I have allotted different subjects to each day. Though I picked a new subject only after the first one was completed, I made it a point to study GK as well as law parallely so than when one would bore me, I could pick up the other. In the May study-plan the months you must have seen in all the boxes refer to the monthly magazine of that month which had to be completed within the time allotted. It wasn't bulky so two days were sufficient.
  3. I have stricked some subjects and boxes. Ah! The sheer satisfaction of getting done with a task and striking it off from your to-do list! I think this motivated me more than the actual goal to clear the exam eventually. It gave me the required adrenaline rush to just get done with the task and be deserving of putting that beautiful strike on the table. If I did not complete the task in time then I did not strike the box and that ensued a lot of guilt in me. 
  4. I had put it up on the wall in front of my study-table. A time-table left on the back of some note-book is not as helpful, trust me. I have tried that. You can see it in the picture below, standing tall next to my favourite poem.
Smriti on Instagram

It will be your best friend, your guiding-light. Always nagging you and always appreciating you if you complete your task in time. So it's upto you; how many strikes did you draw on your study-plan? Do let me know! :) 
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As I indicated in my previous post, I'd be doing a subject-specific series on how to tackle each subject for the judicial services examination. Assuming you have adapted well to the schedule I proposed therein, I will deal with evidence today. Though most of the steps remain the same, there are some additional/different things you need to do to get the best of your evidence-law study. For ease of reading, I will enlist both, the steps already mentioned in my previous post and also the additional, evidence-specific steps. The instructions remain the same: complete one step, and then come back for the next step. Just one step at a time. Eazy Peezy, right? Once you complete all the steps, do what the last step says: repeat! So, let's begin, shall we? 

  1. Pick up the bare Act and read it from the beginning to end. This shouldn't be tough considering evidence Act is fairly short in length although it contains an ocean of things when it comes to its application but that's a discussion for another day. Don't care too much about the length. Assign a definite number for hours each day and read it for those hours. If things get boring, take a break, pick another subject, but come back to the Evidence bare Act. 
  2. Illustrations are extremely important. please do not skip them.
  3. As you get done with the sections, try to segregate sections specifically pertaining to a .criminal trial and that to a civil suit. You could colour code them or make a quick reference-list in the index section. When you will attempt answer-writing in the mains, if it looks like a section from this Act has a role to play in your answer pertaining to CPC or CrPC, you can mention that section. It will definitely give more weight to your answer. I think I write this in every post and I will reiterate here as well. Section numbers are important, pay equal attention to them.
  4. Pick up either class notes of your coaching, or a book like Dr. Avtar Singh's. Read it patiently. Pay attention to the Sections that seem important. You will notice that the book does not elaborate on each and every Section and that's alright.
  5. Keep making a list of terminologies like 'last seen together theory' or 'res gestae''. Mention them next to the section they pertain to, in the Bare Act itself.
  6. Do two more readings of THE WHOLE Bare Act. 
  7. Now pick up past year papers of all the States irrespective of whichever State you're aiming for. Some I've clubbed together here, will include more in due time. Take the Pre Papers, find CPC MCQs and attempt them. How many did you get right? Jot down your score somewhere. How many seemed unfamiliar?
  8. Now pick up Mains Question Papers of all the states and just give the questions a read. You will notice that unlike Pre, the Mains Paper only focuses on the broader areas. Mark the Sections that have been asked in mains. Make a dot next to a provision in your Bare Act (I preferred doing it in the index section) everytime you encounter a question relating to that provision. Once you're done, you'll notice that some sections have way more dots than others. Make sure you make extensive notes on these in Step 8 vis-a-vis the depth of questions you've seen are asked in the mains question papers you've just analysed.
  9. Give the Bare Act another read. Things will start seeming much familiar now that you've attempted some MCQs. 
  10. Give the book/class-notes another read along-with the Bare Act and make your own notes. Also include the case-laws that you encountered in Step 5 while attempting Pre Question Papers, under the relevant Section/Order.
  11. Some case-laws are very important in evidence law. They have been asked alot of times and will be asked again. Even if your material does not mention the facts of a case you are reading, if it is a landmark case, google it and read the facts. Most cases have very, very interesting facts and reading the findings along-with the facts will ensure that you will not forget the case and its findings only after a single read. That is what happened with me. I didn't have to study any evidence law case twice to remember it. As the facts were like a scene from a crime-thriller, the story and the findings have been engraved in my head. What you will struggle with initially is connecting the case-details with its name. That may take some time and will only go with multiple reads or if you somehow visualise the case-name in that crime-thriller plot you have just imagined in your head. Another trick could be to use mnemonics. With time you will need neither to recall the case.
  12. Pick up MCQs and attempt them again. Have you improved? Where are you lacking?
  13. If you are dubious about your answer writing skills, attempt mains questions by actually writing the answers on a sheet of paper. You may compare them to the samples I keep sharing on the blog (Like here). If you are fairly confident with your answer writing skills, mentally attempt all the mains questions of every state. There are so many, you'll never get done with all.
  14. Read the Bare Act with the notes you made from now on. Refer to your material when you have a doubt understanding some topic, or you encounter a question that you cannot answer from your notes and the Bare Act.
  15. WOW! So many reading already! You must already feel like a pro. But don't stop here. Aim for perfection. Repeat Steps 11, 9, and 10; in that order till the D-day arrives. Good luck!

-Smriti Tripathi