The special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Mumbai, which is hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, on Wednesday banned the media from reporting on the proceedings of the case until further orders. The court issued the directive based on a request by the team of defence lawyers.
In their petition, the defence argued that publishing details of the trial would affect the security of the prosecution lawyers, the accused and the defence team. The defence also claimed that there had been instances of misreporting in the past, which had “prejudiced” both sides in previous cases.
The defence pointed out media reports raising doubts about the death of Justice Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, who was previously presiding over the same case until he died, had led to apprehension about the possibility of any “untoward incident”. On November 20, Loya’s family spoke up about suspicious circumstances surrounding the judge’s death at a time when Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah was still an accused in the case before he was acquitted, prompting numerous calls for an official inquiry into the matter. The defence claimed, in its petition, that “by giving such natural death the colour of killing him” the media had created concerns that something untoward might happen.
Additional Sessions Judge SJ Sharma accepted the defence’s contentions.“I am of the view not to allow media to make publication of any of the proceeding during the trial in the matter until further order. It may happen that the publication may create security problem for the accused persons, prosecution witnesses, the defence team and the prosecutor as well,” the order said.
While accepting the defence’s petition for a gag order, Sharma also appreciated the media for its efforts to “collect essential events, publish them and make the public aware” about the proceedings of the case. He also acknowledged that journalists had been assaulted in the past for reporting on trials.
The court had on August 1 discharged former Inspector General of Gujarat DG Vanzara and IPS officer Dinesh MN in the 2005 case.