In medieval England, coroners were Crown officials with the responsibility of investigating and certifying deaths related to unidentified bodies, mass disasters and sudden or unnatural deaths. Traditionally the aim of the inquest is to determine the answers to these questions:
– Who died.
– How, when and where they came by their death?
Sadly, the question of ‘why’ is not dealt with in this investigation. The coroner’s formal power to name a suspect for trial upon inquisition has been abolished. The legal remit of the inquest is very narrow. It is a fact-finding exercise that does not apportion blame. It makes recommendations that are not obligatory for anyone to follow. They are not enforceable by law. Once the investigation is over, there is no formal follow-up to see if anything has changed as a result.
The Coroner’s court is open to public. Unfortunately, also to the press. In cases of suicide/suspected suicide, there is a tendency to sensationalise events, much to the distress of the families. At Saagar’s inquest my picture was taken sneakily, without my knowledge and published by someone despite a categorical ‘no’ from me. After the proceedings got over, one reporter had the audacity to ask me for our home address.
The hallmarks of irresponsible reporting are – price of the house they lived in, privately educated or not, professional parents or not and the mode of death. Some reporters are notoriously pushy and aggressive making a difficult situation impossible. Here is what one of my friends had to say, “The more I read the more inaccuracies there are. Decided not to read anymore. Even had reporters knocking on door and asking for our side. So the next thing we can expect is to have weird phone calls.”
Should completely unrelated people be allowed into a courtroom when very sensitive and very personal matters are being discussed? Should these reporters not be accountable for their behaviour?
This is a plea to reporters – please have a heart!