If a court orders ban on reporting by media in a rape case, it means a “complete ban” on printing or publishing the proceedings, legal experts unanimously said on Monday.
The view was expressed by senior advocates Anil Divan, Rajeev Dhavan and K.T.S. Tulsi against the backdrop of an order by a magisterial court for in-camera hearing in the Delhi gang-rape-cum-murder case and restraining the media from reporting the proceedings in the case.
However, the media can report whatever is part of formal record of the court, said senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan.
“I don’t think media can report the matter if the court has ordered in-camera proceedings,” he said.
“You may report, for example, that the accused pleaded guilty or not guilty as that is going to be the part of formal record of the court.”
“You can definitely ask the prosecutor or counsel for the accused and report what is part of the formal record. But you cannot report what was the demeanour of the accused inside the court, what he said, what the judge asked, etc.,” Mr. Dhavan clarified.
Senior advocate and noted criminal lawyer K.T.S. Tulsi conveyed a similar opinion saying, “There will be complete ban. Nobody can report anything regarding the court proceedings.”
“It is like a general ban. In rape cases, the court is closed and only with the permission of the court can anyone report anything,” Mr. Tulsi said.
Mr. Tulsi said that no media person could remain present in the courtroom during the proceedings and cannot even report the proceedings from source-based information as well.
Senior advocate Anil Divan also expressed the same view. “In-camera hearing and restriction on reporting of proceedings in rape cases is provided for the in the CrPC under Section 327,” he said.
On whether media can report proceedings after collecting information from lawyers, Mr. Dhavan said: “I don’t think so. See, what you can’t do directly, you can’t do indirectly.”
On whether the arguments advanced in the court can be reported if the prosecution or the defence briefs the media, Mr. Dhavan said, “You may use the terms ‘given to understand’ in case you report it.”
When asked about media guidelines issued by the Supreme Court that the reporting of a certain matter can be banned for a particular time, he said, “A timed order is different. It cannot be reported for a given time period. It is different from in-camera proceedings.”