The former Karnataka High Court judge M.F. Saldanha has found fault with subordinate court judges in Mangalore for not granting bail to Kasturi Newz 24 reporter Naveen Soorinje, who has been implicated by the police in the July 28 attack on young men and women attending a birthday party.
Talking to reporters in Mangalore on Wednesday, Mr. Saldanha said the Magistrate Court and the District Sessions Court, while dealing with the bail applications, failed to differentiate between Mr. Soorinje and other persons arrested in the case. The courts had gone by what was placed before them by the police, without applying their mind to the facts of the case. “It is wrong to rubber stamp police action. You cannot brand Naveen along with other accused,” Mr. Saldanha said, and added that the courts should have gone through newspapers to be aware of what’s happening.
Mr. Saldanha said Mr. Soorinje, a true professional, had been targeted by the police and the State government for showing the two in bad light by reporting the July 28 attack and other such incidents. The courts have believed police reports saying Mr. Soorinje was absconding, whereas he attended nearly 100 official functions between the date of filing the charge sheet (September 25) and his arrest (November 7).
The two courts had failed to look at the misuse by the police of Section 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. “The (subordinate) judiciary has let us down,” he added.
He recommended corrective action similar to the one taken following the arrest of two girls in connection with Facebook posts on the aftermath of Bal Thackeray’s death. Disciplinary action needs to be taken against the police and also the subordinate judicial officers for wrongly confining Mr. Soorinje in prison, he said.
Mr. Saldanha said he would file a petition before the Press Council of India demanding an independent inquiry into the case.
Mr. Saldanha later met Mr. Soorinje in the Mangalore District Prison and spent nearly 30 minutes with him. Mr. Soorinje told Mr. Saldanha about the attack and how local police were in the know of things. He told Mr. Saldanha that the Mangalore Rural Police Inspector and the Sub-Inspector had been in touch with the main accused Subash Padil before and after the attack.
After the charge sheet was filed on September 25, Mr. Soorinje said he had attended many official functions, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s visit to Mangalore, using the pass issued by the Police Commissioner. The police had falsely reported to court that he was absconding, which led to the issuing of the non-bailable warrant, Mr. Soorinje told Mr. Saldanha.