6 Aug 2019 1:15 PM GMT
A group of journalists from various media outlets have filed an intervention application before Special NIA Court conducting the Malegaon blast case of 2008, seeking to be added as respondents in NIA's application for making the trial in-camera. Special Judge VS Padalkar will be hearing the said application filed by journalists today along with NIA's application filed under Section 17(1)...
A group of journalists from various media outlets have filed an intervention application before Special NIA Court conducting the Malegaon blast case of 2008, seeking to be added as respondents in NIA's application for making the trial in-camera.
Special Judge VS Padalkar will be hearing the said application filed by journalists today along with NIA's application filed under Section 17(1) of the NIA Act and Section 44(1) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
NIA had relied upon trial court's decision to allow application filed by accused Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit in 2016 for making proceedings in-camera and the trial Court partly allowed this prayer restricting the in-camera proceedings to the framing of charges against him.
The group of journalists seeking to intervene have argued that NIA cannot rely upon the order passed for a limited duration of time and in specific circumstances. Advocates Rizwan Merchant and Gayatri Gokhale are representing the group of journalists.
Previously, a Special CBI Judge had prevented the media from reporting in the trial regarding the alleged fake encounter of Tulsiram Prajapati and Sohrabuddin Shaikh. In an application challenging the said media gag order filed by the group of journalists, the Bombay High Court quashed and set aside the said gag order on February 4, 2018.
"Press is the most powerful watchdog of public interest in a democracy", Justice Revati Mohite Dere had observed.
Protection of Witnesses Section 17 of the National Investigation Agency Act deals with 'Protection of witnesses' and sub-section (2) states-
"On an application made by a witness in any proceeding before it or by the Public Prosecutor in relation to such witness or on its own motion, if the Special Court is satisfied that the life of such witness is in danger, it may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, take such measures as it deems fit for keeping the identity & address of such witness secret."
The said intervention application states that NIA did not cite any specific circumstance where witnesses are facing a threat to their lives. Further, the application argues that even if there are any complaints or apprehension of threat to the life of any witness, they can be extended security under the Witness Protection Program. "Therefore, gagging the media is not warranted in any circumstance", application states.
Last week, the Bombay High Court while hearing a plea by Prasad Purohit, the bench of Justices Indrajit Mahanty and AM Badar had granted liberty to NIA for filing an application before the Spl NIA Court seeking police protection for 38 witnesses in the case. Prosecution has examined 124 witnesses so far.