Delhi rape case: Court to balance rape trial, media's rights

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 11, 2013 20:17 hrs

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Friday said that it would examine to "balance" media's right to access the Delhi 16 gang-rape trial and conducting trials of rape cases.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher, issuing notice to Delhi police commissioner and Delhi government on media's plea seeking access to the trial, said: "Court would examine balancing the right of media to access the rape trial and how a trial has to be conducted in rape cases".

The high court posted the matter for Feb 13.

Legal journalists filed the petition saying their "fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression" is being violated. "My right as a responsible media reporter is violated," said the plea against the advisory issued by the police to media restraining them from publishing news related to the case.

The trial court also Jan 7 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.

During the hearing, advocate Meenakshi Lekhi appearing for journalists, termed "illegal" the advisory of police to the media and said: "Media till now has handled this matter responsibly and carefully. It is because of media the case has been highlighted and united the nation."

She said that the trial court judge "must have regulated the access" into the court and journalists should have be allowed to attend the proceedings showing their I-cards.

Lekhi also told the court that filing the charge sheet in the case, police had not mentioned section 302 (murder) of IPC among the charges sheet, which media reported. Police later said it was a typographical error.

She further added that after TV channels flashed the news that police forgot to add murder charges against accused in the case, police issued advisory restraining media from reporting the case.

Lekhi also pleaded that as responsible members of society and its representative, journalists should be allowed to cover the case as "awareness of people on the judicial proceedings is essential."

"Public (media) access in the case helps to ensure that justice is applied equally," said Lekhi, adding that otherwise there will be fear of fair and transparent trial.

"The role of police in the case is under suspicion from the day one, and passing a gag order (by trial judge) and advisory of police will come in the way of a fair trial. Media should be allowed so that people in the country could get to know what is going on behind the closed doors," she argued.

She said that the media has been reporting the case "responsibly" from day one and has not revealed the name of the victim.

"The braveheart victim has already expired and her father has already disclosed the identity and name to the media which has been published in the newspapers abroad and the social network sites. Therefore the order to hold the proceedings in camera was not warranted," the plea said.

The plea also stated that Supreme Court has held that "media, in several cases in India, is the only representative of the public to bring to the notice of the courts issues of public importance including governance deficit, corruption and other drawbacks in the system."

"Supreme Court has held that open justice permits fair and accurate reports of court proceedings to be published. The media has a right to know what is happening in courts and to disseminate the information to the public which enhances the public confidence in the transparency of court proceedings."

However, during the hearing, advocate Dayan Krishnan, appearing for police, opposed the plea saying that its a rape case, and "every trial of the rape case has to be in camera."

Krishnan said that there are several witnesses in the case which has to be in-camera.

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