‘Open trial is a rule’ and the proceedings in the December 16 gang rape case can be accessed by the media as ‘seering public interest’ is attached to it, the Delhi high court on Friday said quashing the order of the special fast track court barring journalist presence and reporting on it.
"To deny that there is a seering public interest in the prosecution of the case, would be to act like an ostrich, whose head is buried in sand," Justice Rajiv Shakdher said while allowing a representative each from national dailies and news agencies including PTI to cover the day-to-day hearing of the sensational case that had sparked national outrage.
"Open trial is a rule, and wherever exceptions are carved out, they are made only to secure the ends of justice," the bench said. Slamming the Delhi police, the court said it had no business to issue an advisory prohibiting reportage of the proceedings.
"In my opinion, the State had no business to issue an advisory in that behalf. Therefore, the argument of Dayan Krishnan that the advisory was issued by the police only as a measure of 'courtesy' to the media, is completely untenable, keeping in mind the statutory purpose and the manner in which courts are required to function.
"By such an action, the state in a sense sought to usurp the discretion which was vested entirely in the court," it said. The court said that no concrete direction, ‘which are cast in stone’, can be issued regarding media coverage of a case of such nature.
It, however, issued certain guidelines on the plea, filed by some scribes through lawyer Meenakshi Lekhi, outlining the procedures to be adopted by media persons in reporting the proceedings in the case.
"The reporting shall not disclose the names of the victim or those of the members of the family of the victim or the complainant or witnesses cited in the proceedings. The reportage shall exclude the part of the proceedings which the trial court specifically so directs," it said.