A Sessions court has asked a magisterial court to look afresh into the leak of Swami Aseemanand’s confessional statement while expressing unhappiness at the manner in which the trial court handled the matter.
A Delhi magistrate court had recorded the statement of Swami Aseemanand, an accused in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast case, under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code. A copy of the statement, which was to be handed over the trial court concerned in Rajasthan in a sealed envelope, was given to the CBI investigating officer. But the statement reached the hands of a Tehelka journalist and it was published in the magazine.
Another accused in the case, Devender Gupta, who is presently lodged in judicial custody at Ajmer Central Jail moved a magistrate in Delhi seeking investigation of the leak but the trial court dismissed his plea.
The trial court called for a report from the CBI which stated that no CBI official had leaked the statement. The agency said the journalist, upon interrogation, claimed that an advocate had given him the statement, but he refused to divulge the name of his source.
The trial court said no offence was made out with respect to the allegations in Gupta’s complaint and that only a case of contempt of court was made out but even for that, “the appropriate action was required to be taken by the court concerned since the confessional statement was in respect of CBI case which was being tried at another place and not at Delhi.”
In her order on Gupta’s revision petition, Additional Sessions Judge Savita Rao said: “As per the report of CBI filed on record, the investigating officer had not disclosed or supplied the copy of confessional statement to anyone. In these circumstances, it is not clear, how the said confidential document reached in the hands of journalist who got it published in newspaper/ Tehelka magazine. Though it was stated that the copy of the said statement was collected from an advocate but how the said document reached in the hands of advocate is a matter of serious concern. The factum of confidential document having been leaked in such a manner is a matter of grave concern and should not have been taken so casually by the court and in these circumstances, the appropriate inquiry was desirable to go to the root of the matter to arrive at some logical conclusion. The order passed by trial court is also bereft of any reason with respect to other legal aspects qua the offence made out in this scenario. In these circumstances, the order passed by trial court is not sustainable and is accordingly set aside.”
The counsel for the respondents, which included the editor and publisher of Tehelka and the CBI investigating officer in the case, said contempt of court was also not made out as “fair reporting” did not amount to interference in judicial proceedings under Section 4 of the Contempt of Court Act.
The counsel for the magazine also cited Section 15 of the Press Council Act, which does not require the source of information to be divulged.