"Illegal": Journalists Challenge Gag On Reporting Sohrabuddin Sheikh Fake Encounter Trial

The court hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case had issued a gag order, banning the reporting of the trial.


Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter trial: Journalists have moved the Bombay High Court against a gag order

Mumbai:  Nine journalists from leading newspapers, online media outlets and television channels in Mumbai have moved the Bombay High Court against a ban on reporting the trial of the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case that is being conducted in Mumbai and counts several retired and serving police officers among the accused.

The journalists have filed a petition seeking quashing of trial court's orders that prohibits reporting on the ongoing proceedings after lawyers representing the accused asked for a ban citing security concerns.

"The reason for filing this case is the application filed by the accused, their arguments and the trial court's order. A trial is based completely on witnesses' depositions, lawyers' arguments & the court's orders. There can't be any apprehension of any untoward incident on these things," Sunil Baghel, Senior Assistant Editor (Legal) for Mumbai Mirror told NDTV on The 9 O' Clock News.
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The journalists who have challenged the gag order spoke to NDTV on The 9 O' Clock News.

The petition states that the order is "illegal and is not tenable in law". It also points out that the order simply based on a mere "apprehension" of an untoward incident and the plea of the accused does not elaborate on what these apprehensions are based on.

"It is fundamental right of journalists to report and moreover it's basic right of every citizen to be informed. This is being denied to us on the basis of a fear. There is no question of misreporting because we will report on legal proceedings that transpired in court," Neeta Kolhatkar, City Editor of Free Press Journal told NDTV.

The petition also states that the case has already been extensively reported upon in the press and there is no security threat to any of the accused or their advocates or to anyone else as a consequence of the media reporting on the case.

"We approached lawyers for what we believe is a good cause. There were lawyers who helped us even though they could not appear for us," Sharmeen Hakim, Principal Correspondent (Legal) Mumbai Mirror, told NDTV.

In the petition, the journalists say the mere possibility that some journalist may perhaps carry out some irresponsible reporting of the trial does not mean that all other newspapers and media must be gagged from reporting the proceedings altogether.

"There is no reason for the court to stop reporting on proceedings in this case. We have reported day to day proceedings in the 26/11 terror attacks case trial and the 1993 blasts case trial. If there was no problem then, why is there a problem now?" Sunil Singh, Associate Editor, NDTV India, said.

Sohrabuddin Sheikh, a petty criminal, was killed in near Gujarat's Gandhinagar area in November 2005 along with his wife Kauser Bi.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, which later took over the case, said Sohrabuddin and his wife were abducted while on their way from Hyderabad to Sangli in Maharashtra. The Gujarat Anti-Terror Squad, which allegedly kidnapped them, claimed they were terrorists plotting to kill Narendra Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time.

Tulsiram Prajapati, who was accompanying the couple and became a witness to the crime, was killed a year later.

Investigators said the killings were meant to silence the men, who were instrumental in an extortion racked the police of three states - Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh - were running at the behest of their political bosses.

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