Court imposes media gag in Sohrabuddin trial

 Fake encounter? Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife, Kausar Bi.

Fake encounter? Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife, Kausar Bi.

Mumbai: Following a plea from the defence counsel, the special CBI court conducting the trial in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter cases on Wednesday barred the media from reporting proceedings till further orders.

Judge S.J. Sharma, who allowed journalists present in court to present their stand, said, “It may happen that publication [of reports] may create security problems for the accused, prosecution witnesses, defence team and the prosecution. I, therefore, find justification in the request of the defence team of lawyers.”

In the order, Judge Sharma said, “In this the accused are the police of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, and this case has been transferred to Mumbai Court by the order of the Supreme Court. A number of witnesses have been examined by the State CID, Gujarat Police and CBI. In the case, 15 accused who are Ministers of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and high-ranking police officers, have been discharged and the matter appears sensational. Charges have been framed against 22 accused who are police officials and private persons.”

In November 2005, Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were allegedly abducted by the Gujarat Police Anti-Terrorism Squad while on their way from Hyderabad to Sangli. Sheikh was allegedly killed in a fake encounter near Gandhinagar. His wife disappeared, and is believed to have been killed as well. Prajapati, Sheikh’s aide and eyewitness to the alleged encounter, was allegedly killed by police at Chapri village in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district in December 2006.

Not on, say ex-judges

Former Bombay HC judges condemned the gag order. Justice (retd.) Rajan Kochar said, “The order is not good at all. How can the media be restricted from reporting? This is a bad trend in the judiciary. Media cannot be gagged in such a way. A reporter sitting in court and reporting should not be a problem. In this country, nowadays, which matter isn’t sensitive? Every mattter is.”

Retired judge Suresh Hosbet agreed, saying, “This is fundamentally wrong. The Constitution guarantees and promotes an open trial. I mean, it’s no secret, and the public have a right to know. In a trial like this, freedom of the press and freedom of speech is everything, and that shouldn’t be curtailed.”

Referring to the death of Special CBI Judge B.H. Loya in 2014, retired HC judge V.G. Palshikar said, “Media is entitled to know exactly what is happening in court, without the narration being biased. If people are so merciless that they killed Judge Loya, then they can kill anybody, whether it is reported or not, so apprehension of a likely attack on witnesses or accused is baseless. Also, if there is a media ban and people know about it, then the prosecution doesn’t want citizens to know what exactly is going on.”

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Printable version | May 18, 2022 12:49:18 pm |