CBI vs. CBI: Senior Adv’s argue ‘Media cant be gagged’ but SC can put restrictions on sensitive issues

New Delhi: Senior advocates practicing in Supreme Court are turning bold towards the Judges on matters they do not agree to, which often calls for action against them.

Only recently on November 16 when the apex court was hearing CBI vs. CBI case the bench comprising of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph abruptly adjourned the hearing as the bench learnt about Verma’s response to CVC report as well as CBI DIG’s application against Special director Rakesh Asthana information leaked outside the court room and was also published in papers.

Reacting to the court’s response on sensitive matters being leaked and published, Senior advocate Fali S Nariman told the Supreme Court on Thursday that media could not be gagged from reporting petitions as they are given the right, howsoever, in sensitive cases, as such, the court may ask the media to postpone publishing the contents of sensitive petitions till the judges passed appropriate orders in open court.

Nariman said, “The court cannot prohibit media from publishing what is said in court. It is an important right of the media and guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a). But what is filed, the court can ask media to postpone publishing of its contents till the judges peruse and comment on it in open court.”

While Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan did not agree with Nariman, TOI reports.

Responding to the arguments, the CJI said the court was not passing any order and hence no further arguments need to be made on this issue.

But Lawyer Dhavan’s drew the court’s attention to its decision on November 16 hearing where the CJI-led bench had abruptly adjourned with an anguished remark, “None of you deserve a hearing.”

Irrepressible Dhavan said it was unfortunate on the court’s part to have said “none of you deserve a hearing”, to that, the CJI responded: “It was unfortunate, but you (Dhavan) will be heard today unless you don’t want to be.”

Dhavan replied, “Of course, I want to be heard, otherwise why am I here,” to which the CJI said, “You will be heard. Stay calm.”

However, the hearing begun and counsel for NGO ‘Common Cause’ Dushyant Dave alleged that the current acting CBI director had taken a few policy decisions which includes closing of probe against Sanjay Bhandari who was accused of bribing the tax officers.

Replying to the NGO’s counsel appearing for the CBI, additional solicitor general P S Narasimha denied NGO’s allegations and nothing of that sort had happened as is claimed in court.

Howsoever, the bench asked CBI’s counsel Narasimha to prepare and ready the transfer files of five officers including A K Bassi, Ashwini Kumar Gupta and Manish K Sinha by the next hearing on Wednesday.

Senior advocates appearing for Bassi and Sinha, Rajeev Dhavan and Indira Jaising claimed their clients were transferred to Port Blair and Nagpur only because they were probing a sensitive case against special director Asthana.

To that the CJI asked if they were challenging the officers transfers, shouldn’t they have filed separate petitions?

“How do you have locus standi to intervene in a petition filed by Alok Verma?” Justice Gogoi asked.

It was when Dhavan admitted that his client’s transfer to Port Blair was directly linked to the CBI director’s powers being divested, the bench asked him, “So, if the director had not been investigated, you would not have been transferred, and therefore, you have a right to challenge the removal of the director? But we are not deliberating upon all these questions at present.”

While attorney general K K Venugopal said, “We are told, there are certain CBI officers who pass an order and on the very next day, give a copy of it to certain lawyers.”

The AG further added these issues are a sign of lack of discipline and lawlessness which is affecting the CBI’s functioning.