Media reports with exact content of chargesheets in Delhi riots case a “disturbing trend”: ASJ Rawat

A Delhi Court Tuesday expressed its disapproval of media reports with the exact contents of the chargesheets filed in the Delhi riots case even before the court had taken cognizance of them and had supplied them to the accused.

“There is also a disturbing trend about the reporting of the exact contents of the chargesheet before cognisance is even taken or counsels for the accused are provided copies of it. It is one thing to report generally about the chargesheet but quite another to reproduce it as it is and thus, obviously, the question of leakage would arise. This is grossly unfair and unjustified and the court expects that it would not occur in future”, Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat said.

Judge Rawat added though it was impossible to lay down guidelines regarding media coverage, in the present oral application and in the present jurisdiction, there should at least be a disclaimer when reporting that it is either the version of police or the accused, instead of presenting it as if it is the order of the court.

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“Labeling the police as completely unfair or the accused as a convict itself is not a healthy sign … which impacts the process of the criminal justice system. The principle and the tenets of a free and fair trial are sacrosanct and inviolable”, the court said.

This order came to be passed by the court after accused Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi, Sharjeel Imam, Asif and Devangana Kalita raised the issue of the continuing media trial against them which, according to them, affected their right to a fair trial.

The court today also took cognizance of offences under Section 124A, 153A, 109 and 120B of the IPC against 18 accused persons in the Delhi riots case. They include Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, Safoora Zargar, Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam among others.

It directed that the supplementary challan and accompanying documents be supplied to all accused persons on a pen drive.

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