The last week saw two trials by the Janta ki Adalat — the third court of justice that the media has increasingly come to be. One was the outof- court trial of ‘bullet biker’ Sarabjeet Singh who was accused of eve teasing a Delhi University student. His image was shared widely on the social media. Public outrage followed and the media went into a tizzy and branded him a ‘molester’ without even listening to his side of story. The ‘pervert’ who got away with his ‘lewd’ acts was booked under charges of sexual harassment by the Delhi Police soon after the outrage.
THE CASE AS OF NOW
Born as Indrani Bora in Guwahati in Assam, Mukerjea first shot to limelight in 2002 when she started dating media mogul and ex Star India ceo Peter Mukerjea. While she was dating Peter, Indrani was still married to Sanjeev Khanna, a businessman and co-accused in the Sheena Bora murder, with whom she had a daughter, Vidhie, who was five at the time. Vidhie was adopted by Peter later. Till the news of Sheena’s murder broke, their acquaintances knew only about one marriage and one daughter. However, it is now revealed that Peter was her third husband and she also had two kids from her first marriage.
Mukerjea’s first husband was Sidhartha Das with whom she had two children — Sheena Bora and Mikhail Bora. She was still in college when she had conceived both the children and hence she left them under the care of her parents and moved to Kolkata in 1990 to pursue higher education.
There she met Khanna, her second husband. They later moved to Mumbai in 2001 where Indrani ran an HR consultancy firm and made recruitments for Star India. After moving to Mumbai, the couple split and Indrani won the custody of Vidhie. It was during her days as an HR consultant that she met Peter and they both married eventually.
In 2007, Peter announced his retirement from Star India to launch a rival broadcast network by the name of INX. Since, Peter was under his termination contract, Indrani was at the helm of affairs at INX Network. Even though their new venture failed to take off as expected, Indrani made news for all the good reasons during its initial days. Touted as the next big player in the media industry, she was globally recognised as one of the youngest women media entrepreneurs. In fact she was put along the likes of Pepsi Co’s chief Indra Nooyi and Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s chief technical officer, in Wall Street Journal’s list of ‘50 Women to Watch’ in the year 2008. The INX Network started with a bang but failed to make a mark in the competitive market leading to the couple’s exit from the venture in 2009.
Meanwhile, Indrani never returned to Guwahati. She met her children Sheena and Mikhail for the first time after leaving home in 2005 in Kolkata. Indrani introduced her children as siblings to Peter. In 2008, Indrani got Sheena admitted to St Xavier’s college. It is alleged that Sheena was dating Rahul Mukerjea, son of Peter from his first marriage and Indrani did not approve of the relationship. In 2011, Sheena, who had started working with Reliance by then, had a quarrel with Indrani and left the house to stay on her own. However, since April 2012, Sheena was not reachable. According to the police, Whenever Mikhail asked Indrani about Sheena’s whereabouts, she would say that she had gone to USA for further studies. When Mikhail asked about Sheena’s contact details, Indrani allegedly threatened to stop giving financial aid to him and his grandparents and hence he kept quiet.
The other trial is still ongoing; that of media entrepreneur Indrani Mukerjea. As details from a botched up investigation reveal themselves by the day, a ‘sensationalism’ and ‘glamour’ hungry media gloats over the murky details of a high profile murder case. On 25 August, Indrani Mukerjea was arrested for allegedly murdering her daughter, Sheena Bora, in April 2012. The above-mentioned incidents are completely different but the common thread between the two is trial by media.
Soon after the news of Indrani’s arrest, the media began its trial and declared Mukerjea guilty of murder without waiting for any official statement by the investigating authorities. The focus, more than on the basic reporting of a murder case, is on Mukerjea’s character. Part of the ‘breaking news’ package for India TV was a set of pictures from her Facebook account. The verdict: Indrani was a ‘party lover’. For Aaj Tak, the highlight of the case was Mukerjea’s culinary preferences in prison; “Indrani ne sandwich khaya” flashed the breaking news.
In the Sheena Bora murder case, the media has stumbled on a treasure trove of hours of sensational news content. The economics of the whole thing works out brilliantly; they keep gossip addicted viewers entertained and shoot up the trps of news channels. Fascinated by the details of Mukerjea’s personal life, the focus of news broadcasts has been her past relationships and marriages. In order to outdo each other, the media houses have been running stories which clearly lack any authenticity and are based on inputs provided by ‘highly placed sources’. No one knows for sure whether these sources even exist or not. The police have not made any official statement indicting Indrani as of now and yet the media has been reporting ‘facts’ on the incident.
In a race to be the first to break the news about the mysterious murder case, media houses have ignored the fact that this unofficial trial will have serious consequences on the investigation process as is evident from the infamous Aarushi murder case. Every media house seems to have their own opinion or theory on how and why Sheena Bora may have been murdered by her mother.
The kind of reporting this incident has received so far is similar to that of the 2008 Aarushi Talwar murder case, where a fourteen-year-old girl and her domestic help Hemraj were found murdered at her home in Noida. In that case too, the media got carried away by the mysterious double murder and ran stories blaming Aarushi’s parents for the crime even as an incompetent police investigation struggled to keep the facts together.
As a result of the media trial, the police also investigated the matter with preconceived notions. In the end, Aarushi’s parent’s were convicted for the murder of their daughter Aarushi and their domestic help Hemraj merely on the basis of circumstantial evidence. The case is now closed and the couple is serving life sentence for their own daughter’s death.