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After Karnataka HC order, Bengaluru police blur photos, stop naming accused

Over the last fortnight, Bengaluru police have started leaving out names and blurring photographs of arrested persons from press releases on account of a June 15 order of the Karnataka High Court, directing police to stop identification of suspects in announcements to the media.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru |
Updated: July 2, 2021 11:44:08 am
The High Court said police should not reveal details of cases before investigations are completed and asked the state government to issue directions in this regard.

On June 23, the Central Crime Branch unit of Bengaluru police issued a press release on the arrest of five persons, allegedly involved in peddling drugs to youths in the IT sector, and the seizure of Rs 30 lakh worth of MDMA, LSD and hashish. The release did not name the arrested persons.

The next day, police issued a press release on the arrest of two Cameroonians who were allegedly dealing in counterfeit foreign currency and overstaying in India beyond the expiry of their visas. Again, the press release did not name the arrested persons.

Over the last fortnight, Bengaluru police have started leaving out names and blurring photographs of arrested persons from press releases on account of a June 15 order of the Karnataka High Court, directing police to stop identification of suspects in announcements to the media.

During the hearing of a petition, filed by advocate H Nagabhushan Rao against the disclosure of investigation details by police to the media, the High Court said police should not reveal details of cases before investigations are completed and asked the state government to issue directions in this regard.

“We are of the view that very comprehensive directions are required to be issued to the police for ensuring that before completion of the investigation, they do not divulge the nature of the investigation, the material collected during the investigation etc.,” a division bench headed by Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka said.

“The other direction will have to be regarding prohibition on disclosing the identity of the complainant and the accused,” the bench said. It said punitive action will have to be enforced against police officers for violation of directions. The state government was asked to implement the directions in four weeks.

In his writ petition in which 11 Kannada television channels and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting have been named as respondents, Nagabhushan Rao said police were providing details of cases before completion of investigations and this would hamper the process of justice in the courts.

The High Court ordered the inclusion of the Karnataka government in the matter and issued directions against revealing case details while they are under investigation.

The matter has been posted for July 20 for the Karnataka government to report compliance.

While Bengaluru police have started implementing the High Court order, there is concern among police officers that not being able to provide details of persons arrested or under investigation in crimes through official communications could lead to speculation in the media.

In recent times, several politicians and officials in Karnataka have obtained gag orders from local courts against the media from being identified in controversies where they may be linked. The gag orders have been issued by courts on the grounds that the restraint is on unverified and false reporting about individuals.

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