The Kerala High Court has said that "strict 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 comment on October 15 while hearing the bail plea of Jolly Amma Joseph, the prime accused in the Koodathayi serial murder case.
The HC noted that investigating officers are leaking confession statements of the accused and the media is giving publicity to it, especially in sensational cases.
"If an FIR is registered in a case and if it is transferred 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," the court observed.
"This court cannot sit as a silent spectator in the criminal justice delivery system. If the confessions statement and other materials collected during the investigation are discussed in the media and divulged to the general public, the situation will be perilous," the court order reads.
During the hearing, the court said 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," the court said, adding that a full stop is necessary.
The court clearly stated 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 that are based on confession statements.
"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," the court said.