The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected CBI Director Ranjit Sinha’s plea to restrain the media from reporting on the contents of the visitors’ logbook at his residence, which showed frequent visits by some of the accused in the 2G and coal block cases among others.
We have no control over the press. We only have control over proceedings in the court. Everybody is expected to know what they should do and what they should not,” said a bench led by Justice H L Dattu.
Dubbing all the accusations as “patently false”, Sinha’s counsel Vikas Singh made a forceful pitch for issuing a court order to restrain the media and prevent “irreparable damage to his reputation”. He said these meetings were “a matter of his privacy” since they happened at Sinha’s residence.
Demanding a disclosure on who leaked the contents of the visitors’ logbook at Sinha’s residence, he said this was an “invasion of his right to privacy, which was a fundamental right”.
The bench told Singh that while it agreed that the issue involved a person’s reputation, it also acknowledged freedom of the press and would, therefore, not pass any order, while expecting the media to act responsibly.
Stating that it cannot take cognizance of his notes, the bench asked advocate Prashant Bhushan, counsel for NGO CPIL, a petitioner in the 2G case, to file an affidavit and place everything on record as per the court rules. The logbook, the bench said, will be placed separately and will not be given to any party.
“ We have gone through the documents. It is desirable to have all this on an affidavit. If we have to pass any order, will we be doing it on some written notes and oral submissions? No, we will not pass any order until everything becomes a part of the record,” said the bench, as Bhushan agreed to file a supplementary affidavit.
The court then agreed to grant an urgent hearing on Monday and decided to assemble at 10 am, half-an-hour before regular court hours.
Sinha’s counsel asked how the contents of the logbook were leaked despite the court’s order that it should be placed before it in a sealed envelope. “What is the sanctity of these proceedings now when everybody has got the entry book? The source of leak is more than evident. Such an application is not maintainable at all. It is against the SC rules and judgement,” Singh contended.
When the bench pointed out that Bhushan also knows the law, Singh retorted, “Mr Bhushan and (Arvind) Kejriwal think they are above the law. The law that applies on everyone else does not apply to them.” Singh also said it was not proper on the part of the court to allow urgent hearing only because some “baseless” allegations and “twists and turns” had come up.
Displeased, the bench told Singh that it was exclusively in the court’s domain to determine the urgency of the matter and asked him not to raise the pitch and scope of his arguments.
On Singh’s plea that Bhushan should disclose the source of the documents, the bench said there was no need to pass any directions. It said if Bhushan did not disclose the source in his affidavit, it would ask him to do so. “Suppose he does not disclose the source of information, will we not be asking him for it? We will ask him how did he secure it and he would certainly say he secured these documents in a manner sanctioned by the law,” it said.
The bench also turned down another plea by Singh on an application which sought directions to Sinha to stay away from the 2G case. It said the court would take up this plea only after the issue regarding the visitors’ logbook is decided.
Meanwhile, Bhushan, who also represents a petitioner NGO in the coal blocks case, moved a separate plea in the SC demanding that Sinha be kept away from the probe in this case too. The CJI-led bench is likely to take up this plea on Septembr 9. PTI quoted Sinha as saying that he would recuse himself from the coal blocks probe if the court orders him to do so.