A group of nine journalists have moved the Bombay High Court challenging the media gag order passed by special CBI judge SJ Sharma dated this November 29 in the trial of alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati.
Although the gag order does not bar the press from being present during the proceedings, it does prohibit reporting of the same.
The petitioners who represent various media organisations from print as well as television, have argued in their petition that the gag order is illegal and the special CBI judge had no jurisdiction since there is no provision in the Criminal Procedure Code authorising the judge to pass such an injunction.
It is argued in the petition that the special CBI judge rushed in passing the order on the apprehension of misreporting in the case whereas media has been reporting on the said case for over 5 years and no instance of misreporting had occurred.
The petition states:“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.”
Case Background
In 2005, Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were allegedly abducted by the Gujarat Police in Hyderabad. Thereafter, it has been alleged that both Sheikh and his wife were killed in a fake encounter. Also, Sohrabuddin’s aide Tulsiram Prajapati is also said to have been killed by the Gujarat Police in 2006. He is believed to have witnessed Sohrabuddin’s alleged fake encounter. In 2012, the Supreme Court transferred the trial to Maharashtra, and, in 2013, it clubbed both Prajapati and Sohrabuddin cases.
In the light of Caravan’s story concerning the mysterious circumstances around the death of Judge BH Loya who was earlier presiding over the case, several media reports were published. With this background, defence lawyer Wahab Khan sought proceedings to be made in-camera. But judge SJ Sharma passed the order dated November 29.
Advocates Abad Ponda and Abhinav Chandrachud will be appearing on behalf of the petitioner journalists and the matter is likely to come up for hearing on January 12, 2018.