Ex-ED Director Tells How to Avoid Media Trials in Sensitive Cases

In his new book, Karnal Singh talks about the media trial that led to controversies in Batla House encounter case.

Updated
India
3 min read

Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma

Former Enforcement Directorate chief and Delhi Police top cop Karnal Singh writes about sensationalism in media in his book Batla House: An Encounter That Shook The Nation. He headed the Delhi Police’s Special Cell during the September 2008 Batla House encounter.

Speaking to The Quint about media trials in sensitive cases, Singh said:

“Even in the media industry there are certain people who try to sensationalise and there are people who are very balanced.”   

In his book, the former top cop claims that media got several facts wrong in connection with the Batla House encounter. As a result of which, he had to give explanations to the government.

“A news article said three bullets hit Late Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma from behind. It further stated that the correspondent had a copy of post-mortem report. However, the actual post-mortem report said that there were two bullet injuries and he was shot from the front. So the facts were very clear. Anybody who would see the post-mortem report would be convinced that the controversies were away from facts.”
Karnal Singh, Former ED Director 

The Delhi Police’s Special Cell headed by Karnal Singh investigated the 2008 Delhi terror blasts that led to the Batla House encounter, targeting an alleged Indian Mujahideen terror cell.

Speaking about what pushed him to write this book, Singh said:

“There are two reasons behind this: One is, I wanted to tell the story of the excellent work done by Late Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma who lost his life during the operation. Secondly, I wanted to bring before the people what one goes through while countering terrorism.”
Karnal Singh, Former ED Director 

‘Communication Between Media & Officers Shouldn’t Stop’

While talking on media trials and speculative news reports, Singh said it is important that the communication between investigative officers and journalists be channelised.

“I feel there is the requirement to train both officers working with the government and media personnel, so that both are aware of the boundaries that they must not cross. Journalists might have information or evidence on a certain matter. However, after speaking with the authorities, things seem different for the journalists.”
Karnal Singh, Former ED Director 

Due to the competition amongst news channels, it is important that media self-regulates, Singh added.

“Media competition has increased. When I joined the service, there was only print media and Doordarshan. Slowly, the number of TV news channels increased and so did the competition. As far as the police is concerned, there are courses in the National Police Academy on how to interact with the media. Similarly, the media should also have a code of conduct which should be self-regulatory.”
Karnal Singh, Former ED Director 

Singh further added that trust between journalists and officers is essential to keep rumours at bay.

“Media is a very powerful tool which creates an impression in the minds of the people. This impression or perception becomes reality for their audience. Then, the outcome of the investigation becomes immaterial for them. Therefore, it is very important that the media creates the right perception among people through their articles (factually correct). For this, self-restraint is required.”
Karnal Singh, Former ED Director 

Recently, the media has been criticised for media trial in the Sushant Singh Rajput case. Singh chose to not comment directly on the ongoing investigation. He added that cooperation between the officer and journalists can curb such media trials. However, this can happen only if the media is well-informed and convinced with the facts, he added.

Watch the video above for the full interview.

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