Legal experts, journalists say media gag in Sohrabuddin trial is violation of fundamental rights

In an attempt to silence voices of dissent, special CBI court, hearing the alleged Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, has banned media from reporting proceedings, say legal experts and media fraternity

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter


The Special CBI court order has provoked a wide range of criticism from media fraternity and legal experts. While legal experts feel that this order should be challenged in the court, editors whom NH spoke to opined that the order is a clear violation of right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution.

The political editor of The Caravan (which brought spotlight back on the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case by exposing suspicious circumstances which led to the death of justice Loya who was hearing the case), Hartosh Singh Bal, marks the gag order as a “dangerous incident.”

Explaining the far-reaching impact of such an order on democratic institutions, he told National Herald that the issue goes beyond the violation of freedom of expression. By bringing in the angle of “right to information”, he said, “Ideally this kind of ban should not exist at all. In rarest of rare cases in which you want to hide the identity of the victim or accused, it can be justified. But in this case, transparency has become the casulity. In a true democracy, the need to know cannot be curbed.”

Adding more to the Bal’s premise, founding editor of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan, said that this kind of pre-emptive ban undermines the people’s right to know. “Right to information has been compromised,” he added while saying this gag on media will eventually weaken democratic institutions.

NH Photo 
NH Photo 
Political editor of The Caravan Hartosh Bal (centre) addressing a press confrence 

Former editor of Rajya Sabha TV and the host of a popular show “Media Bol,” Urmilesh Urmil, said that this was a shocking judgement. “In the light of fundamental rights - right to freedom of opinion and expression - it appears to be an unfortunate order,” he added.

While suggesting that such arbitrary orders must be fought in the court, legal expert and an advocate in Supreme Court, Varun Chopra, said that given the sensitivity of the issue/matter, a court had rights to ban the media from reporting but in this case special CBI court seemed over reactive.

“It is such an old case that the logic of media trial does not hold any ground. The order clearly violates fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Therefore, it amounts to violation of the Constitution too. Right to freedom of opinion and expression is guaranteed by the Constitution and no one can put a ban on it,” he added while saying that the media should fight for their rights.

Special CBI Judge S J Sharma has passed the order of ban on reporting on Wednesday evening following an application filed by defence advocates seeking a “complete ban on print, electronic and social media.”

“Considering the sensitivity in 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 that may be brought on record, I am of the view not to allow media to make publication of any of the proceeding during the trial in the matter until further order. It may happen that the publication may create security problem for the accused persons, prosecution witnesses, the defence team and the prosecutor as well. I, therefore, find justification in the request of the defence team of lawyers,” the Special Judge said in his order.

Although the court has not specified in its order, the media will be allowed to sit in court during the proceedings but will not be allowed to publish anything related to it.

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Published: 30 Nov 2017, 4:08 PM