Journalists in Mumbai have moved the Bombay High Court challenging a sessions court order gagging the media from reporting the trial of retired and serving police officials accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.
Among those petitioning the Bombay High Court are nine legal reporters from national dailies and news channels saying that it was “illegal and not tenable in law.”
The petition said, “The trial court ought to have considered that the case involves an element of public interest and our populace, therefore, has the right to know what transpires in the trial. The accused persons, almost all of whom are former police officers are standing trial on the charges that they engaged in fake encounter killings in and around Gujarat.”
The petition claims that the ban order has become a major road block and obstacle for the reporters in discharging their duties.
It further added, “the mere possibility that some journalists may perhaps carry out some irresponsible reporting of the trial does not mean that all other media must be gagged from reporting the proceedings altogether. In any case, there is an alternate remedy to take appropriate action against any irresponsible/negligent journalist for contempt of court for misreporting proceedings.”
The petition is likely to be heard in January 2018, reported news agency PTI.
Days after reports emerged raising suspicion on the death of of the former CBI judge Brijgopal Loya, the special CBI court in Mumbai had issued a media gag on the ongoing trial in the fake encounter case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati.
Special judge Sunilkumar J Sharma, had said, “It may happen that publication (of reports) may create security problem for the accused persons, prosecution witnesses, defence team and the prosecution as well. I, therefore, find justification in the request of the defence team of lawyers.”
Raising security issues, the defence lawyers also referred to media reports on the death of a judge Loya, who was hearing the case when he died in mysterious circumstances. The lawyers had added that “misreporting has already caused prejudice to both sides”. They said it was a “sensational” case and some untoward incident could happen if publication of reports was allowed, reported news agency PTI.
Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were allegedly abducted by the Gujarat polices Anti-Terrorism Squad on their way from Hyderabad to Sangli in Maharashtra in November 2005. Sheikh was allegedly killed in a fake encounter near Gandhinagar. His wife disappeared. She too was believed to have been done to death.
Prajapati, an aide of Sheikhs and eyewitness to the encounter, was allegedly killed by police at Chapri village in Gujarats Banaskantha district in December 2006. The fake encounter case was transferred to Mumbai in September 2012 on the request of the CBI which said it was necessary to ensure a fair trial.
BJP president Amit Shah, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria, former Gujarat police chief P C Pande, Additional Director General of Police Geeta Johri are among those who have been discharged in the case.