NIA chargesheet against Hafiz Saeed, separatists: Media allowed to cover proceedings
The NIA court hearing the Kashmir terror funding case on Thursday allowed journalists to cover proceedings.
The issue of media coverage came up when the NIA filed a chargesheet against 12 accused, among them Lashkar-e-Taiba co-founder Hafiz Saeed, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin and Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Ahmad Shah, and put the matter for cognizance on January 30.
The hearing began at 11.30 am when journalists were allowed in unknowingly by the court. One of the defence counsels alleged that NIA is selectively passing on information to the media. Defence counsel for Zahoor Watali said: “…information is selectively passed to the media by the NIA. Why trial and conviction by the media.” NIA special public prosecutor Sidharth Luthra opposed the charge. “Neither I, or any member of NIA, has given any statement to the press. Who is giving the statement…. We are trying to ensure highest responsibility,” he said. The matter was resolved and arguments ensued on whether the accused could be provided a copy of chargesheet before the court takes cognizance. The court decided to hear the matter after lunch. However, when journalists assembled inside after lunch, the judge asked everyone to leave.
According to court sources, again the argument started over selective leaking of information. But both sides eventually agreed that they did not have a problem if media covered the proceedings. Additional Sessions Judge Tarun Sherawat looked into the rules laid down on press coverage. The NIA Act Section 17, which deals with the protection of witnesses, states: “… the proceedings under this Act may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, be held in camera if the special court so desires.” Sherawat did not find any written application for conducting in-camera proceedings. Court sources said the judge then said the media should be allowed till there is a written order and reasons mentioned for conducting in-camera proceedings.