Bombay HC lifts media gag order in Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case

Bombay HC lifts media gag order in Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case

In the latest update to Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case, the Bombay High Court has quashed and lifted the gag order on media reporting on the trial on Wednesday.

The gag order had been issued by the special CBI court of Additional Sessions Judge SJ Sharma had, on November 29, 2017, issued the gag order against a handwritten request submitted by advocate Wahab Khan, counsel for Rajasthan policeman Abdul Rehman Khan, who had urged the court to ban media reporting on proceedings in the trial.

Mere apprehension of the accused that media may sensationalise the proceedings was not a sufficient ground for banning reporting it, the high court said.

On November 29 previous year, CBI judge SJ Sharma allowed an application made by defence counsel Wahab Khan to ban print and electronic media from publishing or reporting anything on the trial till the judgment is passed.

"The arguments of the accused persons are just bare words". The court also said as far as the witnesses were concerned, they must be protected at all cost and it is always open to the prosecution, if necessary, to request the court to hide the identity of a witness.

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The petition also said the case had already been extensively reported and there was no security threat to any of the accused or their lawyers. "The rights of the press are intrinsic with the constitutional right that guarantees freedom of expression".

"In reporting on an open trial, the press not only makes use of its own right, but serves the larger goal of making such information available to the general public", she said. "The press is the most powerful watchdog of the society", Justice Mohite-Dere said. "The public is entitled to know if the state is using its machinery in a proper manner and so the state is bound to conduct prosecution openly", Justice Mohite-Dhere observed.

Defence lawyers contended that as the Supreme Court has transferred to itself the petitions pending in the Bombay High Court on the death of judge Loya, the journalists' plea too should be transferred to the SC. The high court's observations came in response to two separate petitions filed by the group of media persons and the Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists.

Hitting out at the investigative agency, Singh said, "It is unprecedented in the country's judicial history that the CBI has refused to file an appeal in a case involving a president of the ruling political party as an accused".

"The interest of the society would not be served by restraining the media from covering such a case". Shaikh's associate Tulsi Prajapati, eye witness to the encounter, was also killed in another alleged fake police encounter later.

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