Millennium Post

Court upholds ban on media, in-camera proceedings

A Delhi court on Wednesday upheld a magisterial court order for in camera proceedings in the case of 16 December gangrape of 23-year-old girl and restraining media from reporting it.

District and Sessions Judge R K Gauba said there was nothing ‘illegal’ or ‘improper’ in the 7 January order of the magistrate.

‘The Metropolitan Magistrate was not only within her rights, rather duty-bound to apply the provisions of section 327 (2) (conducting in camera proceedings in cases of rape and related offences) of the CrPC to the proceedings of the case,’ the judge said. ‘The fact that a large crowd had entered her court room leaving no space for even the undertrial prisoners to be brought in only added to the circumstances leading to passing of the order,’ the judge said.

On 7 January, a magistrate had restrained the media from reporting and publishing the proceedings of the case in the court noting that the courtroom was jam-packed with members of the bar and general public who were unconnected with the case and not prepared to leave it due to which the accused could not be produced before her.

The sessions court said as per section 327(2) CrPC, it is mandatory for the presiding officer to hold the proceedings in camera in cases of rape and related offences.

Noting that the arguments of the petitioner advocates that the case is still at the stage of committal and not trial, the judge observed, ‘Eventually the trial court would also be required to regulate proceedings in terms of section 327 of the CrPC.’

During the arguments, Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan opposed the plea saying the relief sought in the petition is against the provisions of the CrPC and hence it is liable to be dismissed with cost.

The magistrate’s order was challenged by advocates D K Mishra and Poonam Kaushik, seeking setting aside of the decision for in camera hearing and had alleged that the court room was crowded because of the presence of large number of policemen.

The police had earlier filed an application for in camera proceedings in the case before the magistrate under section 327 (2) and (3) of the CrPC. Delhi police had also issued an advisory on 5 January.


JOURNALISTS WANT IN

After a city court ordered in-camera hearings and curbed media from attending and reporting proceedings of the 16 December gangrape case, journalists urged the Delhi High Court to allow them to cover the case.

Pleading before a division bench of Chief Justice D. Murugesan and Justice V K Jain, advocate Meenakshi Lekhi told the court that journalists should be allowed to report the case for the ‘fair and transparent trial’. Lekhi, representing legal journalists, said that freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right and it should not be violated. ‘Its their (journalists) duty to report the case, as now, its not the gang-rape case. Its a case of murder.’

She said that from the media has been reporting the case ‘responsibly’ from day one and has not revealed the name of the victim. The trial court on 7 January had ordered in-camera trial of the case following unruly scenes that prevented the accused from being led into court. It also told the media not to report any news related to the case without its permission. Lekhi said that it was a sensitive and crucial case and people have right to know about it through the media. ‘Passing a gag order will come in the way of a fair trial and people who are connected to the case would not know what is going on behind the doors,’ Lekhi said.
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