ibnlive » India

Oct 18, 2006 at 12:19pm IST

Mattoo case: Media take a bow?

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court verdict in the Priyadarshini Mattoo rape and murder case has come as a shot in the arm for those campaigning for justice in other similar cases, notably the high-profile Jessica Lall murder trial and the Nitish Katara case.

While the conviction of Santosh Kumar Singh has raised hopes for the Lalls and the Kataras, it has also given the Indian media a day in the sun, bringing into sharp focus its role as a watchdog.

While many criticised what they described as “trial by the media” in the three high-profile cases, it’s generally agreed upon that media campaigned almost as relentlessly as the victims’ kin themselves.

It has also made the ardent critics of media sit up and take notice. For once, they have a tough question to answer: had the media not taken up Mattoo case, would the results have been the same?

No, believe many veteran journalists.

"Without media, I don't think the so-called conscience of judiciary would have woken up. It took six years for the judiciary, what happened in the intervening years?" asks Editor-in-Chief of news weekly Outlook, Vindo Mehta.

Both Jessica Lall's sister Sabrina and Nitish Katara’s mother Neelam are now hopeful that justice will not be denied to their wronged kin.

"In a democracy, it’s very important for people to know what’s happening and how people are suffering. The media has played a very important role and I would like to thank the media," says Neelam Katara.

While campaigners for justice in both cases rallied on streets, took out candle-light marches and started mass SMS campaigns, media brought the raging debate into millions of living rooms.

In fact, CNN-IBN tracked down the key witness in Katara case Bharti Yadav in London - something the Delhi Police and the Indian Government could not manage in the last four years.

“Judiciary is shocked by what the trial court judge in the Priyadarshini case said, so this is a historical judgement,” says an activist Aditya Raj Kaul.

While journalists would hesitate calling it trial by media, this is one conviction likely to set a precedent for other cases.