The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday reserved its orders on the petition filed by Naveen Soorinje, a reporter with the Kannada television channel Kasturi Newz 24, and two other accused in the case related to the July 28 attack on a group of men and women at a “homestay” in Mangalore.
Justice K.N. Keshavanarayana reserved the order after hearing the arguments of counsel for Venugopal and Tharanatha Alva, accused nos 6 and 7 respectively, and Soorinje, who is accused no 44.
Counsel for Venugopal and Alva contended that the investigation was not completed when the trial court in Mangalore rejected their plea for bail and since the charge-sheet has been filed now after the completion of the probe, there cannot be any impediment in granting them bail.
Soorinje’s counsel said that he was declared “absconding” in the charge-sheet, though the police themselves had issued him security pass to attend a rally of Congress president Sonia Gandhi subsequent to the incident.
He said that Soorinje could only be treated as a witness and not as an accused. The police had made Soorinje an accused as they were enraged from the reports carried by him that indicated that the attack at the home stay took place despite the presence of police.
“The number of attackers outnumbered media persons,” was the response of counsel when the judge asked whether the petitioner [Soorinje] could not have prevented the incident.
Contending that police action against Soorinje was to “curtail press freedom”, counsel pointed out that Soorinje had exposed similar attacks earlier. Among the other charges, Soorinje is accused of “provoking the assailants to lift the face of the victims to enable their video recording”.
Meanwhile, the prosecution pointed out to the court that all the three accused fall within the definition of Section 149 (members of unlawful assembly) as the complaint and the First Information Report established their presence at the time of the attack.