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Shraddha Walkar murder: HC questions Aaj Tak on telecasting Aaftab’s narco test

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought to know from news channel Aaj Tak why it wanted to telecast the recording of narco analysis conducted on Aaftab Amin Poonawala, the man accused of strangling his live-in partner Shraddha Walkar and dismembering her body.

Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar’s poser came while hearing an application by the news channel seeking vacation of its April 19 order by which all media channels were restrained from displaying or telecasting any material connected with the case.

The high court issued notice and sought the response of the Delhi Police on the application and listed the application for further hearing on August 3, the date already fixed in the main petition.

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The application was filed in a pending petition of the Delhi Police in which they have sought restraining media houses from publishing, printing and disseminating confidential information contained in the charge sheet and other such material collected during the course of the investigation.

Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad, representing the Delhi Police, opposed the channel’s application and said he will file a reply.

During the hearing, the high court said there are more heinous cases than this and 20 murders take place all over India daily. “What is so special about this case?” asked the bench.

“Was the Nirbhaya case played on TV channels? Why are you choosing this particular case?” it asked and wondered whether the channel would similarly display the developments in the Atiq Ahmed murder case investigation.

The court asked the channel’s counsel to respond to the queries on the next date of hearing on August 3.

“You cannot take the charge sheet in a case and affix them on walls. Some line needs to be drawn about how much these public documents can be displayed on TV,” the judge said.

The channel’s counsel submitted its fundamental rights were being violated due to the injunction on dissemination of information in the Shraddha Walkar murder case.

Responding to the counsel’s assertion, the court asked sharply, “This is your fundamental right? To display the matter that is sub-judice on TV? How many criminal cases pending before courts are being displayed on TV?”

The court refused to give an early date for hearing the application and said it will be heard on the date already fixed in the main matter.

In its April 19 order, the high court had also directed the Centre to ensure that no news channel displays such material till the disposal of the petition filed by the Delhi Police.

Prasad had earlier submitted that Aaj Tak has got access to a video of the narco analysis of the accused and it was restrained by the trial court from showing it or any such content till April 20.

However, he said, an order needs to be passed against all other channels also as the video might have been shared with others and, if telecast, it would prejudice the right of the accused to fair trial.

The high court had also issued notices to the Centre, through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Aaj Tak and Poonawala on the Delhi Police’s petition.

Poonawala is accused of strangling his live-in partner Walkar and chopping her body into pieces here in Mehrauli on May 18 last year. He stuffed the body parts into a refrigerator before scattering them across multiple places in the national capital over several days to avoid detection.

The Delhi Police had filed a 6,629-page charge sheet in the case on January 24.

It had earlier filed an application before the trial court seeking direction for restraining Aaj Tak from utilising in any form the material related to the charge sheet.

“The media houses have no vested right to use the material of investigation inasmuch as the charge sheet is not a public document and is not to be used for the purpose of advancing its business to the detriment of larger public interest of affording fair trial to the accused.

“Hence, the trial court should have completely restrained the respondent no. 2 from using any part of the charge sheet ,” the police said in its plea before the high court.

It said the right to fair trial includes the right to be tried in an atmosphere free from prejudice or else the trial itself may be vitiated on this ground alone causing irreparable, irreversible and incalculable harm and damage to the criminal justice delivery system.

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