After Rhea, Rakul Preet Singh is the Latest Target of TV News. The High Court Might Be Her Saviour

Social Commentary

After Rhea, Rakul Preet Singh is the Latest Target of TV News. The High Court Might Be Her Saviour

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Over the last few months, TV news channels have kept up their incessant coverage of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic death. On Thursday, the media, which has now turned its focus on an alleged drug angle involving actor Rhea Chakraborty, got a slap on the wrist by the Delhi High Court.

Responding to a plea filed by actor Rakul Preet Singh, who says she has been wrongly dragged into the case over a redacted statement by Chakraborty, the High Court asked the media to exercise restraint when reporting on Singh’s involvement in the case.

While asking media channels to abide by Cable TV regulations and the various guidelines related to it, Justice Navin Chawla also issued notices to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Prasar Bharti, and the Press Council of India, seeking their stand on the actor’s petition. The court asked the bodies to treat Singh’s plea as a representation and take a decision on it before the next date of hearing on October 15.

Justice Chawla said that the media has to self-regulate and might be getting haywire.

“Reputations are getting tarnished. We have to do something. Before Rhea could retract her statement, reputations were already harmed. We have to do something. This can’t continue like this,” he responded to Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma who said that the media could report what is going on.

Singh’s name first cropped up in the case after a few reports said that Chakraborty had named her, actor Sara Ali Khan, and designer Simone Khambatta in her statement to the Narcotics Control Bureau.

Rakul Preet Singh argued in court, however, that Rhea’s statement to the NCB was later redacted, and the reports connecting her to the case were being run in contravention with the Information & Broadcasting Ministry’s guidelines.

“I got to know during a shoot that Rhea Chakraborty has named me and Sara Ali Khan for taking drugs, and the media started running a campaign against me,” the actor was quoted as saying. “They’re showing my morphed pictures and pictures from film sets to paint a narrative, to hound me, and link me to some sort of a drug gang.” She also cited Programme Code and MIB India guidelines to argue that the media cannot run such hate campaigns against her.

So far 16 people have been arrested in relation to Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, including members of his staff, Samuel Miranda and Dipesh Sawant, Chakraborty, her brother Showik, and six alleged drug peddlers in Mumbai.

Prior to these arrests, news channels were accused of running a media trial targeting Chakraborty, including making allegations that she drugged the late actor, siphoned off money from his bank account, and in some cases, even performed “black magic” on him.

Chakraborty has maintained that she’s innocent, and that she and her brother have been unfairly charged under sections of the NDPS Act related to drug trafficking. Meanwhile, three months since the country first woke up to the news, there’s still no official clarity over what actually led to Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death.