NINE journalists, including a reporter from The Indian Express, approached the Bombay High Court Tuesday against the special CBI court order last month restraining the media from reporting on proceedings in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case.
The writ petition challenging the November 29 order seeks for it to be set aside stating that it is “bad in law.”
And that the trial court had failed to articulate what the “exceptional circumstances” were which had necessitated the passing of such an order.
On November 29, the defence advocates had filed a plea seeking a complete ban on reportage in the case citing apprehension of the security of witnesses, accused and lawyers.
The court accepted the plea observing that publication of the proceedings may create a “security problem.”
“The Learned Trial Court ought to have considered that the said case involves an element of public interest, and our populace therefore has the right to know what transpires in the trial,” the petition states. So far, at least 10 hearings have taken place in the case since the ban.
The petitioners are Naresh Fernandes of Scroll.in; Neeta Kolhatkar, The Free Press Journal; Rebecca Samervel of The Times of India; Sadaf Modak of The Indian Express; Sidharth Bhatia of The Wire; Sunil Baghel and Sharmeen Hakim, Mumbai Mirror; Sunil Kumar Singh of NDTV and Vidya Kumar, TV Today Network.
The petition will come up for hearing on January 12.
Of the total 38 accused in the case named by the CBI initially, the court framed charges including murder, criminal conspiracy, destruction of evidence against 22 persons so far. The court is currently at the stage of examination of witnesses.
In 2012, the Supreme Court had transferred the case to Mumbai after the CBI submitted that witnesses were being threatened and the trial could not be held in a free and fair manner.
The case relates to an alleged fake encounter in November 2005 of Sheikh his wife Kausarbi and subsequently in 2006 of his associate Tulsiram Prajapati. Among the accused are police officials from Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.
In November 2005, Sheikh was traveling in a Sangli-bound bus from Hyderabad along with his wife Kausarbi and associate Tulsiram Prajapati. A police team chased the bus and forced the three to alight and eventually took them to Ahmedabad where Sheikh was first allegedly killed. Kausarbi, who was a witness to the incident, was also allegedly killed. But the investigators were never able to trace her remains. Prajapati was also allegedly killed in 2006.
Since the transfer, the court has heard arguments on discharge by all accused.
Among the persons discharged are former Gujarat Anti-terrorism Squad chief D G Vanzara and BJP President Amit Shah.