Malegaon sensitive case, NIA tells court while seeking bar on media
BJP MP Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is an accused in the case; the NIA says private hearing was necessary to ‘maintain harmony in the society and security of witnesses’
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday told a special court here that while it is in favour of freedom of press, the trial in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case should be held in-camera as it is a sensitive matter.
Bhopal BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt. Col Prasad Purohit are among the accused in the case.
The NIA was responding to an application filed by several mediapersons earlier this month against the agency's plea for in-camera hearing and barring the press from attending the proceedings.
The agency had in its plea last month argued that private hearing was essential to maintain harmony in society and ensure the safety of witnesses it wished to examine.
In the application, the mediapersons urged the special NIA court to grant them a hearing first.
An in-camera hearing is conducted in private with only the judge, lawyers, accused and witnesses in attendance. The proceedings are not open to the media or members of the public.
Special NIA Judge V.S. Padalkar had directed the NIA to file its affidavit responding to the mediapersons' application.
In its application submitted on Monday before the court, the NIA reiterated that in camera proceedings was required so as to maintain harmony in the society and security of witnesses.
"The sensitivity of this case is known to everybody, especially the journalists, and the allegations against the accused persons is that they have committed the offences to take revenge against Muslim jihadi activities and to create rift between the two communities," the agency said in its affidavit.
"As per the prosecution, for causing the bomb blast, Malegaon was chosen because it is a Muslim dominated area," it said.
"The prosecution is in favour of freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press and right to information but considering the sensitive nature of the case, prosecution has sought for the trial to be heard in-camera and the press may not be allowed to attend the same," it said.
In their plea filed through advocates Rizwan Merchant and Gayatri Gokhale, the journalists said barring them from attending the hearing in the case would amount to a breach of their right to report and disseminate important information among the public.
They said that such a "gag" order would also amount to the breach of one's constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.
Six people were killed and 100 injured after a bomb attached to a motorcycle went off near a mosque in Malegaon on September 29, 2008.
The trial court has so far examined around 130 witnesses in the case. The prosecution has named 475 witnesses.
The accused have been charged under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code.