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  Metros   Mumbai  25 Jan 2018  Bombay HC lifts media ban from Sohrabuddin trial

Bombay HC lifts media ban from Sohrabuddin trial

THE ASIAN AGE. | SHAHAB ANSARI
Published : Jan 25, 2018, 1:35 am IST
Updated : Jan 25, 2018, 6:22 am IST

The HC set aside special CBI court order that banned media from covering 2005 Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter trial.

File photo of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar
 File photo of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Wednesday quashed and set aside the order passed by a special CBI court banning the media from covering the trial of the 2005 Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case. 

The high court held that being a sensational case cannot be ground to ban media from reporting it. The court also said that the matter of Judge Loya’s death is not connected with this matter so alleged misreporting of that matter is also not a ground to prevent media from covering the trial.

The CBI judge S. J. Sharma had prohibited journalists from publishing the proceedings of the trial on an application moved by one of the accused, a police inspector from Rajasthan, Abdul Rehman, which was supported by the rest of the accused.

The defence lawyers of the accused had contended that the media report would prejudice their case. They had alleged that media has already misreported this case by publishing reports claiming that Judge B. H. Loya’s death was unnatural, a claim which the family of Judge Loya has denied. Judge Loya was handling the Sohrabuddin encounter case when he died.

However, Justice Revati Mohite-Dere did not accept this contention, saying the matter of Judge Loya’s death has nothing to do with the trial that is dealing with the death of Sohrabuddin. While lifting the ban, Justice Mohite-Dere further observed that mere apprehension of the accused that media may sensationalise court proceedings was not a sufficient ground to ban reporting the trial.

Justice Dere was hearing petitions filed by a group of city-based journalists and Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ) challenging the CBI order banning media from reporting the Sohrabuddin encounter trial. The petitioners’ lawyers Abad Ponda, Mihir Desai, Abhinav Chandrachud, Varsha Bhogle and Shailendra Singh had contended before the HC that criminal courts do not have inherent power to gag the media and Justice Dere accepted this argument. She also held that the CBI court had overreached its powers by issuing the gag order. According to HC judge, under the CrPC, only high courts and the Supreme Court can issue such prohibitory orders, that too in rare cases and for a limited period of time.

Justice Dere also said, “The rights of the press are inherent with the constitutional right of freedom of expression. In reporting from an open trial, the press not only makes use of its own right, but serves the larger purpose of making such information available to general public.”

The judge added, “The demands of a democratic society are that it must know what is happening in the country.” According to the judge, the press is the most powerful watchdog of the society. Currently, 23 accused are facing trial in the Sohrabuddin encounter case and the trial began on November 29 last year, the day media was banned from reporting it. Within two months, 40 witnesses have been examined by the prosecution, of them 28 have been declared hostile.

Tags: bombay high court, sohrabuddin shaikh, cbi judge, abdul rehman