When power gags the Press: A reflection on the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case

Gagging was a term prominent during the times when British ruled India. Then came Congress leader Indira Gandhi’s time who also gagged the press. Last year in November, this term came to the surface yet again with the CBI Court disallowing the press to report a case.

This is the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. On November 29, 2017; following an application by advocate Wahab Khan, a ban was put on media (print, electronic and social) to report this case, though they could attend the proceeding.

Courts generally allow such in-camera i.e. private proceedings only if there is a rape case or a case concerning national security. But in this case according to  the order by Special Judge S.J. Sharma, “The publication may create security problem for the accused persons, prosecution witnesses, the defence team and the prosecutor as well.”

Principles generally followed by court have been compromised, in this case.

Following the gagging, nine journalists filed a petition against the order. Journalists from reputed media organisations like The Wire, Dailyo, Scroll, The Free Press Journal, etc. stood before the SC in solidarity.

But the damage has already been done.

In August last year when Inspector General of Gujarat DG Vanzara and IPS officer Dinesh MN were absolved from the charges. While from December, 19 of the eyewitnesses have either retracted their statements or denied stating anything, according to a report by The Indian Express.

The case has been witnessing a fall since the BJP came to power. First there were changes in the judges, then Sohrabuddin’s brother Rubabbudin Sheikh withdraw the petition challenging discharge of Amit Shah, and then the recent developments from 2017.

The case is complicated because of many reasons. One, because it concerns encounter killing of an alleged terrorist and extortionist mafia Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi and Sheikh’s close aide Tulsiram Prajapati. Two, Sohrabuddin according to the Gujarat and Rajasthan Police wanted to kill the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi. Three, one of the accused in the case is the then, Minister of Home for Gujarat and now, ruling party chairman Amit Shah.

The lopsided and strange episodes in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case has raised a question about not just media freedom but also about the meaning of justice in our country.

Sources: The Indian Express, Scroll, The Wire

 

CBI drops charges against Geeta Johri in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case

A special CBI court on Monday dropped charges against Gujarat Additional Director-General of Police Geeta Johri in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case. The decision comes a few days after former Gujarat police chief PC Pandey was also discharged in connection with the case.

“Prosecution against Johri stands dropped for want of sanction”, observed special CBI judge MB Gosavi. According to CBI records, Johri was booked for allegedly delaying investigations in the case and destroying important case records. She has been discharged as mandatory sanction was not sought from the Maharashtra government and therefore she cannot be legally prosecuted.

Sohrabuddin was killed in a fake encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005 for allegedly having links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba. His wife was abducted by the Anti-Terror Squad, disappearing in a few days and believed to have been killed. Sohrabuddin’s close aide and eyewitness to the encounter, Prajapati, was also allegedly murdered by the police in Banaskantha district of Gujarat in December 2006.

The recent discharge of BJP president Amit Shah, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria, Rajasthan-based businessman Vimal Patni and PC Pandey from the case has drawn flak from many, for a sense of political foul play underplaying the entire scenario.

To read more: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/charges-against-gujarat-additional-

dgp-dropped-in-fake-encounter-cases/article1-1322286.aspx

Courtesy: epaper.timesofindia.com
Courtesy: epaper.timesofindia.com