Problem of Social Media Trial in the Modern Democratic India

Our democracy exists because of the existence of the judiciary and its principles of justice, equity and good conscious. If our fundamental right is violated by either governmental authorities or by someone from the society then we can approach the court through Article 32[1] and 226[2] of The Constitution of India. It is the job of our courts that they ensure fair trial and equal representation.

It is however very unfortunate that things do not go the way the judiciary wants and often times, it just ends up with grave consequences. This mostly happens when some third party (other than the courts) tries to play the role of judge, jury, and executioner[3]. And most of the time that role is played by either the mainstream media or social media. Because of this it creates a huge commotion in the society, affects our way of life and disrupts the judicial proceedings (more like sabotaging) of the courts.

This type of trial is called media trial and social media trial. Media trial is just media pretending to be court whereas social media trial is the same thing but online. Where media trial requires reporters to be judges, social media trials require anyone. This has become a hegemony throughout all of India and it is becoming a rising problem. This article will focus on social media trial and how it manipulates the masses to act like judges which is a threat to our democracy.

How about we take an illustration of A. An offers a few remarks on Facebook, scrutinizing the public authority in the light of the progressing rancher’s dissent. And out of nowhere, he gets huge loads of scorn messages from the furious horde from all sides of the web-based media. Some of them even went similarly as announcing an enemy of patriot despite the fact that they have no smallest hint of what Sedition Law is and how it functions[4]. So the rest likewise hop the weapon and begin making all the decisions about A like he’s a socialist or he’s a liberal or whatever.

Let’s take the example of the Jasleen Kaur situation[5]. A woman by the name of Jasleen Kaur falsely accuses Sabarjeet Singh for sexual assualt on her Facebook post. This caught a lot of attention to the media and public and started to hail Jasleen as a hero and the TRP vultures and the social media wannabe judges started demonising and dehumanising Sabarjeet by calling him Dilli ka Darinda. Because of this, Singh was sacked from the job and was ostracised by the society. Albeit he was eventually acquitted by the court because Kaur did not attended the proceedings herself and the credibility of her post was challenged by the court[6]. But the damage is already done. It does not change the fact that the girl’s action and the trial by social media have destroyed the life of someone just because of mere accusation and just jumping into a conclusion instead of understanding and investigating the problem itself.

Let’s discuss the elephant in the room itself. The Rhea Chakraborty case[7]. Long story short, popular actor Sushant Singh Rajput, unfortunately, died of suicide on 14th June 2020. While the whole nation was mourning, the mob started to attack the Bollywood Celebs. When that did not work out, they started to harass Rhea Chakraborty who was the deceased actor’s girlfriend. The #JusticeForSSR crusade has done more harm than good, not to mention it has completely undermined the legacy of the actor. The conspiracy theories and fanfictions made by the mainstream media and the followup JFK like conspiracy theories made by people in the social added salt into injury. Theories like Rhea drugged Sushant, Rhea did some black magic to Sushant, Rhea stole money from Sushant etc. are not only outrageous but also just pathetic. Because of this Rhea was harassed by TRP mongering reporters and angry mob. Rhea was not the only one who was harassed by them. Her family also became the target of the mob. Rhea and her family became the communist pariah in the social media’s McCarthyism and the false judgments made by the mob just undermines the judicial process of the country. Even if she is responsible for Sushant’s death, she must be judged and punished under the confines of the law and not by some 14 years old on Twitter. It’s also funny that the mob claims to be patriots and army supporters and yet they harassed Rhea’s father who was an army officer.

Social media has become the most influential piece on the internet. It can also misuse the influence by villifying or dehumanising someone over the littlest of things. To think that they could destroy someone’s life is scary enough. For all its talk about connecting people, social media has become the exact opposite. It is ironically being used to divide people just like the British did in their divide and rule policy.

Of course we have Section 499, 500, 503, 507 of the Indian Penal Code[8] and other remedies like blocking, saving evidence, having witnesses[9] but we should also know that the manipulation game that social media trial plays not only harms the democracy of the country but also threatens the very existence of the constitution. And with the ongoing Covid 19 Pandemic, where people are forced to stay at home, they have a lot of free time in their hands. And in most cases having a lot of free time in their hands is not really a good idea. Not to forget that Article 19 (1) and Article 19 (2) of the Constitution are thrown out the window.

Thus, in conclusion, it should be kept in mind that social media trial is harming the very essence of the fair trial. The guilty before proven innocent mentality has overtaken the innocent before proven guilty principle. People should know that the courts are the only authority that has the power to judge and punish someone on the basis of fair trial and equal representation. Social Media is just a third party that is endangering the democracy by meddling in court’s affairs. So it is best that people should let the courts do the job and not harm the rule of law.

[1] Singh, A. (2019, September 23). Article 32 under the Constitution of India – Right To Constitutional Remedies. IPleaders.

[2] Garg, R. (2020, November 17). Difference between Article 32 and Article 226. IPleaders.

[3] Bachchan, A. (2021, January 4). Recent Developments in the arena of Freedom of Speech and Expression and Concept of Media Trial: Explained. Latest Laws.

[4] Bachchan, A. (2021b, January 29). The Rising Problem of Fake Patriotism. Law Corner.

[5] Bachchan, A. (n.d.). Online Harassment and the rise of Social Media Trial and Online Witch Hunt. Legal Service India.

[6] India TV News Desk. (2019, October 26). Not Guilty: Sarvjeet Singh acquitted of all charges by Delhi court, Jasleen’s testimony found “untrustworthy.” IndiaTV News.

[7] Bachchan, A. (2021d, February 19). Examples That Show How Far Outrage Culture And “Bhedchaal” Mentality Have Gone In India. Youth Ki Awaaz.

[8] Bachchan, A. (n.d.). Online Harassment and the rise of Social Media Trial and Online Witch Hunt. Legal Service India.

[9] Delhi, C. N. (2015, August 14). ONLINE HARASSMENT AND LEGAL REMEDIES. Experts & Views – Legally India.

This article has been written by Anish Bachchan, a law student currently studying at Amity Law School, Noida.

Also Read – The Rising Problem of Fake Patriotism

Law Corner