The Delhi high court Friday allowed the media to cover proceedings of the December 16 gang-rape trial, subject to restrictions.
“The court will allow access to one representative journalist of each of the accredited national dailies,” said justice Rajiv Shakdher, allowing a petition filed by a group of journalists.
“Open trial is the rule, and wherever exceptions are carved out, they are made only to secure the ends of justice. To deny that there is seering public interest in the prosecution of the case would be to act like an ostrich, whose head is buried in sand,” the judge said.
Soon after the order, the Saket fast-track court - where daily hearings are on behind closed doors - allowed conditional access to reporters.
The gag order - barring journalists from court and their reporting of proceedings - was passed by a magistrate court on January 7 and upheld by a sessions court.
The stay on the gag order does not apply to journalists from the electronic media. However, the court allowed them to collect information from their news agency and newspaper counterparts.
Seeking to balance the rights of the media on one hand and those of the victim and witnesses on the other, the court ordered that the victim, her family members and witnesses not be named.
The media is also barred from reporting parts of proceedings the trial court specifically prohibits. Reporters were asked to "confine themselves to reporting the news" and not "transgress into areas that are in the domain of the court". The Delhi Police had opposed the journalists' plea, saying every rape trial should be held in-camera.
The 23-year-old victim was raped and brutalised by six men in a moving bus in south Delhi on December 16. Main accused Ram Singh was found hanging in his Tihar cell earlier this month. So far, 60 of the 80 witnesses in the case have deposed before the trial court.