Seeking open trial instead of in-camera hearing in the Delhi gang-rape case, petitioner journalists on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that "open trial is the fairest mode" and media should be allowed to report on the case.
Advocate Meenakshi Lekhi, appearing for journalists seeking access to the trial going on in a fast track court at Saket in south Delhi, told Justice Rajiv Shakdher: "Open trial ensures fair trial and it is the right of the accused also. Open trial is the fairest mode of trial... Why should we be afraid of telling the truth to public?"
Advocate Dayan Krishnan, appearing for police, opposed the plea, saying that it is a rape case and "every trial of the rape case has to be in-camera".
After a daylong hearing, Justice Shakdher reserved the order on the plea filed by legal journalists. The petitioners said their "fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression" was being violated by the ban on the coverage of the case.
The trial court Jan 7 had ordered in-camera trial of the case and also asked the media not to report any news related to the case without its permission.
In the plea against the advisory restraining the media from publishing news related to the case, one of the petitioners said: "My right as a responsible media reporter is violated."
Lekhi pleaded that as responsible members of society and its representative, journalists should be allowed to cover the case as "awareness of people on the judicial proceedings is essential".
"Public (media) access in the case helps to ensure that justice is applied equally," said Lekhi.
Lekhi contended that the ban on media from covering the case is "not absolute at all", as the trial court order was working against the interest of justice.
"Can a blanket ban be ordered by a court in the democratic system?" she asked.
Lekhi said the media has been reporting the case "responsibly" from day one and had not revealed the name of the victim.
"Media knew the name of the victim, yet it has not disclosed it till now...even after the family of the victim disclosed the name, media has not disclosed it."
"Fair and accurate reporting will help both victim and accused and administration of justice also. If fair reporting is not done, contempt of court is there," Lekhi argued.
She said that even the Supreme Court had held that "open justice permits fair and accurate reports of court proceedings to be published. The media has a right to know what is happening in courts and to disseminate the information to the public which enhances the public confidence in the transparency of court proceedings".