CBI court bars media to report on the Sohrabuddin Encounter Trial

The media will be allowed to attend the proceedings but not publish anything related to it

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A special CBI court in Mumbai has ordered that the media will not be allowed to cover day-to-day proceedings of the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case trial. The trial has been held in Mumbai after it was moved out of Gujarat by the Supreme Court.

In the order, Additional Sessions Judge SJ Sharma allowed the application and found justification in the request of the defense team of lawyers as publication may create security problems for the accused people, prosecution witnesses, the defense team as well as the prosecutor. The media will be allowed to attend the proceedings but not publish anything related to it, considering the sensitivity of the matter.

The reason why media has to face this gag can be accounted to the defense arguments referring to the sensational Malegaon riot trial of 2008, wherein the court debarred the media under its discretion media ban. Publication by media and publication through press and electronic and social media about the death of Judge Brij Gopal Loya working on this case in such a way that coloured the cause of his death created a state of unrest in the mind of the defence team, the accused people facing trial and prosecution witnesses of the happening of any untoward incident with them. 

Commenting on the gag order, former Attorney General of India, Soli Sorabjee said that he is against any curbs on media reporting unless there are compelling reasons for national security.

Disagreeing with the order, Ravi Kadam, Senior lawyer and former advocate general of Maharashtra, questioned the point of public trials and said that media is not a threat to anybody. This ban is clearly taking away the freedom of the press and also people’s right to information. Former Bombay High Court judge Hosbet Suresh was also seen supporting Kadam’s bid by calling the media ban a fundamentally wrong move.

Colin Gonsalves, senior Supreme Court lawyer and founder director of Human Rights Law Network said that restraining media for any reason other than national security is undemocratic. He stated that there should be proper pleadings and proofs as to why it is absolutely necessary and not by mere asking.


What is the Sohrabuddin case?

Sohrabuddin Sheikh, a petty criminal involved in an extortion racket in Gujarat, was killed 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. Both the cases have been clubbed together and in 2012 the case was moved from Gujarat to Maharashtra after the CBI's request for a fair trial.

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