"Comments Made About Me As Judge": Bombay HC Directs 'Udaipur Times' To Appear Before It For Its 'Impermissible Reporting' Of Trial

Update: 2021-06-26 05:42 GMT

The Bombay High Court on Monday issued notice to Udaipur-based newspaper, the Udaipur Times, for its impermissible reporting of the actual trial related to the Dawoodi Bohra community before the Bombay High Court. The Bench of Justice G. S. Patel observed that The Udaipur Times's news reports had editorial comments on the cross-examination itself, including comments about Mr...

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The Bombay High Court on Monday issued notice to Udaipur-based newspaper, the Udaipur Times, for its impermissible reporting of the actual trial related to the Dawoodi Bohra community before the Bombay High Court.

The Bench of Justice G. S. Patel observed that The Udaipur Times's news reports had editorial comments on the cross-examination itself, including comments about Mr Chagla, learned Senior Advocate for the Defendant, and even some comments about me as the Judge presiding over the trial.

The matter before the Court

The Court was hearing an Interim Application filed by the Defendant (one Mufaddal Burhanuddin Saifuddin) raising a 'matter of very serious concern'.

"That concern relates to the very integrity of the trial in the suit, presently going on before me," the Court added.

Defendant alleged that despite an express direction, the Plaintiff (Taher Fakhruddin Saheb) made available or gave access to trial records to The Udaipur Times although the trial is incomplete.

Court's observations

The Court noted that The Udaipur Times got access to one or more sessions of the cross-examinations of witnesses before me (Justice Patel).

However, the Court did not opine as to whether the newspaper was provided this material (viz., transcripts of the cross-examinations) or one of its reporters was present at the cross-examinations, which were being conducted online, and took down and then reproduced bits and pieces of the questions and answers.

"The result is the same — an entirely impermissible reporting of the actual trial before it is complete," the Court said.

Further, perusing the material annexed to the Interim Application, the Court observed that a journalist or reporter with the Udaipur Times did indeed have access to the trial record or the trial itself.

Noting that the newspaper did publish the extracts of the cross-examination, the Court said:

"Whether or not these are verbatim reproductions of the transcripts will need to be more closely examined at a later date. If indeed they are exact reproductions, then the matter is even more serious because the transcripts are unavailable to anyone except the two parties, their legal teams and the Court. They are certainly not made available to the press. They are not uploaded online."

The court on Plaintiff's conduct

The Court stressed that Plaintiff would need to explain how, despite the unambiguous wordings of these orders he believed he was entitled to circulate the Udaipur Times articles.

"He must also explain, if he can, how the Udaipur Times had access to the trial records," added the Court.

The Court further sought an explanatory affidavit personally from Plaintiff with an appropriately worded apology and an undertaking.

Averring that under no circumstances will there be a repeat of any of this, the Bench of Justice Patel said:

"I also expect the Plaintiff to be personally present at the next online hearing. I am making it clear that if there is a single infraction after this, no matter how slight, I will not only proceed in contempt — if necessary, suo motu since there is no prayer for contempt — against the Plaintiff for interfering with the administration of justice among other things, but I will also immediately dismiss the suit and, as I said I, will do so with costs."

Lastly, the Court required the Udaipur Times to appear before the Court online on July 19 either through an authorized representative or by an Advocate duly instructed to explain its conduct.

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