Bombay HC lifts gag order on media coverage in Sohrabuddin fake encounter case

Quashes CBI court's order in fake encounter case

Bombay HC lifts gag order on media coverage in Sohrabuddin fake encounter case

In a significant step of freedom of press, the Bombay High Court on Thursday struck down the gag order on reporting on the Sohrabuddin Shaikh alleged fake encounter case, imposed by a special CBI court.
A group of Mumbai-based journalists had challenged the order issued last year restraining them from reporting on the trial involving the fake encounter case.
While passing the order, Justice Revati Mohire-Dere, asked: "Is there a provision under which the judge can use his power to direct the media not to publish? Can, in an absence of such power, the court pass such an order?"
She said such restrictions were contrary to law and media could not be stopped from reporting on an ongoing trial.
Senior advocates Abad Ponda and Mihir Desai appeared for the petitioners.
Acting on an application by the accused persons, the trial court had passed an order prohibiting the media from publishing or printing or telecasting information pertaining to the trial proceedings.
Law reporters from national dailies and news channels filed the petition challenging the order and said it was "illegal and not tenable in law". The petition claimed that the ban order had become a major road block and obstacle for reporters in discharging their duties.
"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," it said.
Media bodies, including the Mumbai Press Club, has welcomed the decision of the Bombay High Court.

Ponda, who is representing the journalists pro-bono, pointed out that under no law could the media be banned from publishing trial proceedings.
He referred to the Code of Criminal Procedure, Code of Civil Procedure, Press and Registration of Books Act and Contempt of Courts Act. He also pointed out that special laws like the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act or the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, although stringent, don't restrict the media from reporting any trial.

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