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Mumbai special court rejects NIA plea for media ban on Malegaon blast case hearing

Pragya Thakur (right)
By Our Representative
The Special NIA Court has allowed the intervention application filed by 11 journalists in their individual capacity against the National Investigating Agency's (NIA) plea seeking to make the rest of the 2008 Malegaon blast case "in camera", which effectively means no media reporting. BJP MP Pragya Thakur has been one of the Malegaon blast accused.
This is the first time the media's right to report has been upheld on an application filed under section 17 of the NIA Act and section 44 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which are special laws and specifically provide for in-camera proceedings at the court's discretion.
The 11 journalists are – Sharmeen Hakim (Mumbai Mirror), Sunilkumar Singh (NDTV), Vidya Kumar (India Today), Sadaf Modak (Indian Express), Neeta Kolhatkar (Free Press Journal, Sunil Baghel (Mumbai Mirror), Santia Gora (Mirror Now), Rebecca Samervel (Times of India), Ranjeet Singh (ANI), David Delima (Mumbai Mirror) and Narsi Benwal (Free Press Journal).
The journalists were represented by advocates Rizwan Merchant, Gayatri Gokhale and Akshay Bafna pro bono (free).
NIA wanted the proceedings to be held "in-camera" citing issues like "protection of witnesses" and "communal harmony," among others. Eleven journalists from different organisations came together and filed an intervention application within 5 days – before the hearing on NIA's application could start.
The journalists' application argued that there was no record before the court of witnesses being under any threat and if at all there was any threat to the witnesses, other steps can be taken to deal with that situation and that open trial was the norm.
A Mumbai Press Club communiqué, signed by secretary Lata Mishra, said, “We had agreed to protect the identities of the witnesses, if the court deemed it fit. The court upheld our contentions and rejected the NIA's application.”

Comments

Anonymous said…
This is a victory for the freedom of the press.

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