2008 Malegaon blast case: NIA does not want media and public to attend trial, seeks in-camera proceedings

Mumbai: It appears the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has forgotten the settled principle of law that ‘justice must not only be done but also be seen as it is done.’

This can be said so as the NIA has moved an application before the lower court seeking to conduct an ‘in-camera’ trial of the 2008 Malegaon blast case.

If the court allows the application, it would mean that no media or public other than the accused and their advocate, can attend the hearings. In this case, the prime accused are parliamentarian and BJP motormouth Pragya Thakur, Lt. Col. SP Purohit and other right-wing Hindu extremists.

The NIA through special public prosecutor Avinash Rasal filed an application before special Judge V S Padalkar seeking in-camera proceedings of the trial in the case.

“The application as been filed by keeping in mind the larger public interest of the society. We do not want the case to be public as any reporting about the trial can hurt sentiments and this case is sensitive,” special prosecutor Rasal told the Free Press Journal.

According to Rasal, the application has been filed pursuant to the query of the Bombay High Court, last month, wherein the NIA was questioned why it has ‘truncated’ names and testimonies of a few witnesses in the case. “That time the judges had asked us if we intend to move any application for NIA and thus, we have filed it today,” Rasal said.

However, it seems the prosecutor was not in favour to file such an application especially because the trial court had itself quashed an earlier order by which the matter was ordered to be held in-camera.

Sources in the NIA said it was the investigating officer, who insisted upon filing the application for in-camera.

“The IO insisted on filing the application. And initially, the special public prosecutor was not ready to move it before the court as he was not in favour of such an application.

However, because the IO insisted, the prosecutor had no other choice than filing the plea,” sources said. Meanwhile, the special judge has said he would hear the arguments on the application on Friday and decide accordingly.

Notably, a similar situation had cropped up in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, wherein the proceedings were made in-camera and media was restrained from covering the matter. Nine journalists from the city had then moved a bench of Justice Revati Mohite-Dere of the HC, who had quashed that gag order.

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