NEW DELHI — The Delhi High Court on Monday said that it will hear, on August 2, a petition filed by 2020 riots accused Asif Iqbal Tanha seeking a direction to the media to withhold sensitive and confidential material about the investigation that was allegedly leaked by the Delhi Police.
Appearing a bench of Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma, Tanha’s lawyer, advocate Sowjhanya Shankaran, submitted: “The basic overview is that there is an FIR registered in connection with the Delhi riots. I (Tanha) was an accused in the FIR. My bail application was pending before the learned trial court. During the pendency of my bail application and prior to filing of charge sheet in any court of law, more than four weeks before that, certain portions of the charge sheet were read on national television.”
“It included what is purportedly my ‘disclosure statement’ where the private respondent – Zee News and certain other respondents (OpIndia) started publishing entire material from the charge sheet, which admittedly should not be in the public domain.”
In January, there were two intervention applications filed by media organisations saying that they are also affected by this writ and so they want to be heard, Shankaran said.
Shankaran also noted that two HC judges had recused themselves from hearing Tanha’s plea last week. She said: “The same was heard at length. Justice (Anup Jairam) Bhambhani then recused from the matter, because he had a past association with one of the intervenors. The matter then went before Justice Amit Sharma. He also recused himself.”
“Our submissions on the intervention application are that they are not maintainable and that this is a private matter. There is no larger interest of media organisations or media houses. Apart from that this needs to be kept for arguments,” the counsel contended.
Justice Sharma noted that Respondents No 4 (YouTube) and 5 (Facebook) were deleted from the array of parties in November 2020 and that two intervention applications have been filed by the News Broadcasters Federation & National Broadcasters Digital Association (NBDA).
Justice Sharma was the second judge to recuse from hearing the matter on April 19, first being Justice Bhambhani.
Following media reports about Asif’s “disclosure statement” to the Delhi Police, the plea was submitted in August 2020.
According to the plea, Zee News broadcast the charge sheet for his case six weeks before it was submitted to the court.
Tanha conceded that the riots were the result of a conspiracy and that Umar Khalid, a former JNU student, had asked that he organise a “chakka jam” with the help of other members of the Jamia Coordination Committee, according to the reports.
Then, he filed a petition with the court, arguing that the material was leaked by the Delhi Police and that a probe into the official’s misbehaviour should be carried out as a result of the leak to media outlets like OpIndia, Zee Media, Facebook, and YouTube.
He claimed that because they clouded the judge’s and the public’s mind, such leaks were detrimental to a fair trial.
Tanha asserted that the information that was leaked has no value as evidence and accused the Delhi Police of having malicious intentions. — IANS