Kerala High Court has taken strong exception of sentimentalization of cases in Media. The Court has warned the Media and Investigating officer, that if the Investigation is sensationalized, they will face the consequences.
The petitioner in the instant case was a resident of Kattappana, Idukki. She married Roy Thomas in the year 1997. All her family members were well educated, and as per the prosecution, she lied to her family that she had B.Com and M.Com degrees.
When her mother in law retired, the family, especially the mother in law insisted that the petitioner should get a job. As per the prosecution, because of mother in laws insistence on getting a job, the petitioner decided to kill her.
She purchased ‘Dog Kill’ from a veterinary hospital and mixed it in her mother’s soup. The mother in law died 22.08.2002 after she consumed the soup.
Counsel for the petitioner contended that the whole case of the prosecution was based on extra-judicial confessions. Confession was obtained from the petitioner after 17 years of the alleged crime.
The other evidence is that ‘Dog Kill’ poison was purchased by a person called Jolly Devagiri; however, there is no evidence that this person was the petitioner, Anamma Thomas. The staff of the veterinary hospital or the distributor were not able to identify the petitioner. So, there is not enough evidence to prove the case against the petitioner.
Learned counsel for the respondent state argued that the petitioner had voluntarily confessed to her elder son as well as to other relatives. Her statement was also recorded as per Section 164 CrPc. It was further argued that the doctor of the veterinary hospital has stated that the petitioner purchased the poison.
A further submission was that the petitioner had made an extra-judicial confession to 8 other people, and their statement has been recorded under Section 164 CrPc. It was also alleged that the petitioner has also murdered several close relatives and that the case should be seen as a whole.
What the Kerala High Court held?
Hon’ble Court opined that the admissibility of extra-judicial confessions is something that the Court can decide, and in this, the Court did not accept the extra-judicial confessions.
It was also held that the trial Court, while deciding a bail plea, should not rely on the observations of the bail Court and should rely on the merits of the case. The Court was also not moved by the fact that other witnesses in the case were those people who had heard the extra-judicial confessions and then they gave evidence to the Police.
The Court held that the petitioner could be released on bail but with some conditions. However, the petitioner was not allowed to leave the jail as she had other cases pending against her as well.
Observation on sensationalization of cases in Media
Some other observations were made by the Hon’ble Judge as well. According to the Hon’ble Judge, cases should not be sensationalised in the media and investigating officers should never divulge details of the case. However, in this case, new information emerged almost every day. The Court directed the investigating officers not to divulge the details of the case and the media should also not sensationalize it. If anybody was found violating the directions of the Court then strict action will be taken against them.
Hon’ble Justice P.V.Kunhikrishnan said:
My respectful request to the reporters of print and visual media and, of course, to the anchors of twenty-four hours news channel is to read section 24 of the Evidence Act and other similar sections before framing headlines in the newspapers and before giving breaking news in News Channel based on confession statement of accused who are in police custody. I also request them to read the dictum laid down by this court in Murukeshans case. If there is any violation of the same stringent action will be taken. The investigating officers also should be careful at least in the future. If there is any violation of the above directions by any police officers, disciplinary action should be taken. Therefore, I direct the Registry to send a copy of this order to the Director-General of Police.Hon’ble Justice P.V.Kunhikrishnan
It was observed that:
Investigating officers should, therefore, be alive to this aspect of the matter and they along with the media will have to be prepared to face action in the event of a breach. This court is issuing directions not to violate the same. This court knows how to deal with those violations. I once again reiterate that if the above directions are violated either by the police officers or the media, stringent actions will be taken by this court.
Title: Jollyamma Joseph vs the State of Kerala
Case No. Bail Appl..No.5390 OF 2020
Date Of Order:15.10.2020
Coram: Hon’ble Justice P.V.Kunhikrishnan