Bombay High Court sets aside the ban on media coverage of Sohrabuddin case trial… Justice Revati Mohite-Dere of the Bombay High court set aside an order by special CBI judge S J Sharma to ban the media from covering the proceedings of the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter death trial, on two petitions filed by nine court reporters and editors of news websites and the Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ).
The judge categorically said that the media were the ‘eyes and ears of the public’ and that an open court was important and people must see that justice is seen to be done. The judge asked under what provisions the CBI court had issued such an order. Senior counsel Mihir Desai, arguing for the BUJ, said that “The application (moved by one of the accused in the trial court seeking a gag on media reporting) is devoid of any material seeking such an order.”
The petitioners argued that the special CBI court order defeats the purpose of open court trial set out in section 327 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and was illegal as the Sessions Court has no powers u/s 327 of Criminal Code Of Procedure to restrain media/press from reporting proceedings of the trial. The order violated the fundamental rights of the media protected under Arts 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. It also failed at the test of reasonableness as it did not satisfy the parameters of necessity and proportionality.
The case pertaining to the killing of Shorabbudin Sheikh and his wife Kausar bi in 2005, which was handed over to the CBI in 2010 and transferred from Gujarat to Mumbai in 2012. Initially, there were 38 accused, but 16 had been discharged, including BJP President Amit Shah, senior IPS officers Rajkumar Pandiyan, D G Vanzara, and Dinesh M N.
On November 29,2017, the Special CBI Judge S.J. Sharma accepted a plea by the accused that the media coverage of the case was likely to affect their security. The judge said that, “Considering the sensibility of the matter, likelihood of happening of any untoward incident and likelihood of effect on the trial of this matter, in case of day-to-day publication of evidence may be brought on record.”
The judge had allowed the media to be present during the hearing but not to report it. Till date, 38 witnesses had been examined in the day-to-day trial.