MUMBAI: The gag order of the trial court that prohibited journalists from reporting on or publishing the proceedings of the trial of the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case was quashed and set aside by the Bombay High Court on Wednesday.
"The rights of the press are intrinsic with the constitutional right that guarantees freedom of expression. In reporting from an open trial, the press not only makes use of its own right but serves the larger purpose of making such information available to the general public," said Justice Revati Mohite-Dere in her order.
"Open courts are very significant. Justice must not only be done but must also be seen as being done, which is the purpose of open court. People are entitled to know whether justice delivery system is adequate enough, whether the state is misusing the machinery and representing the society," the court observed while setting aside the trial court order.
The court agreed with the petitioners, a group of reporters, that the Criminal Procedure Code provided only for the high courts and the apex court to issue such gag orders. Such an order could be issued only in rare cases, and for a limited period of time, the court said.
Justice Mohite-Dere said mere apprehension of sensationalism by the accused was not a sufficient ground for issuing such gag orders.
She also dismissed the objections raised by defence counsel saying they had failed to prove to the court that there existed any legal provision for a trial court to prohibit the press from reporting.
On November 29 last year, the special CBI court had barred journalists from reporting or publishing the proceedings of the ongoing trial in the case. The CBI court said while journalists can attend the proceedings, they must not make what transpired public.