The Delhi High Court on Monday reprimanded Zee News for publishing the alleged “” of Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, currently in judicial custody in a case related to February’s Delhi carnage.
According to a in the Indian Express, Justice Vibhu Bakhru told the TV news channel that its reporting on Tanha’s alleged “confession” was “a misrepresentation of facts of a different level”.
The court said the statement had “little evidentiary value” in a trial but it had been used in a way that “completely indicts a person”.
A disclosure statement recorded in police custody – under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code – is inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.
In August, Newslaundry how Zee News and the Delhi police were trying to prejudice the trials in the carnage cases by packaging such statements as confessions.
Reasoning that the “confession” was not supposed to be made public, the court asked Zee News to file an affidavit and disclose the source of Tanha’s alleged confession. It added that the channel was crossing the line. “You have no material whatsoever to make this allegation. You are not the prosecution agency,” the court said. “Please refrain from making any allegations against the petitioner.”
Last week, the court had asked the channel to disclose its source after the police filed an affidavit claiming none of its personnel had leaked the purported statement.
In its defence, the TV news channel referred to Section 15 (2) of the Press Council Act which protects newspapers and journalists against having to disclose “the source of any news or information published by that newspaper or received or reported by that news agency, editor or journalist” during proceedings before the Press Council of India.
“You make [public] documents that aren’t supposed to be taken out and you want your name to be concealed,” the court told Zee News counsel Vijay Aggarwal.
It also questioned the right of the news channel to make public the document when the chargesheet hadn’t been filed and the accused hadn’t been given access to it. It said that it would examine whether Article 19 of the Indian constitution allowed publication of the case diaries at that stage of investigation.
The next hearing is scheduled for October 23.
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