New Delhi: Press has a responsiblity towardsthe nation and it cannot just shy away from accountability, the Supreme Court today said after Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan denied having made any remark about the sensational Bulandshahr gangrape case which were widely reported.
“Several newspapers and news channels have reported the Press Conference of the minister in which the statements were made. But how can we find out if the facts are disputed? “Press has responsiblities towards the nation. In a contentious matter, it can’t just wash its hands off,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy observed as Khan denied making any such statement.
The court directed Khan to file a counter affidavit stating his stand on the plea by November 17 after senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the UP minister, denied having made any remarks with regard to the gruesome gangrape incident or the investigation.
The bench observed that “it is a democratic principal that a public servant should not comment on the investigation of crime, if it is not related to him”.
Noted jurist and amicus curiae Fali S Nariman said if the court wants to know about the statements of minister reported in media, it can issue notice to all the seven channels and the newspapers.
The brutal incident had happened on the night of July 29 when a group of highway robbers stopped the car of a Noida- based family and sexually assaulted a woman and her daughter after dragging them out of the vehicle at gun-point.
The apex court had on August 29 taken note of the controversial remarks of Khan that the gangrape case was a “political conspiracy”.
The court said “had it been another matter where a statement is made against an individual, then he has a remedy like filing a defamation suit or case against the individual who has made the remarks.
“When a rape victim faces such statements, if true, then she can individually invoke article 32 (remedies for enforcement of rights) of the Constitution.” The bench clarified that this case was not of a hate speech and the court was not dealing with the issue of hate speech. “This is controlled case of a rape victim where statements were made on the investigation of the case,” it said. Sibal further said although Khan did not made any statement with regard to the crime or investigation, but “the mouth of an individual cannot be shut”.
To this, the court said it depends on who makes a statement — whether it is a minister or officer or any other public servant on an incident of crime and its investigation, which is not associated with him.
On September 27, the apex court had expressed unhappiness over non-appearance of Khan through his lawyer and asked CBI to serve a fresh notice on the Samajwadi Party leader.
Before that, the court had lifted the stay on CBI probe in the case, modifying its earlier order in which it had stayed the investigation and asked the agency to proceed as per law.
CBI had moved the apex court seeking modification of the order staying its ongoing probe in the case, saying it may cause “disappearance of material evidences” besides enabling six accused to seek statutory bail.
Initially, the FIR was lodged by the Uttar Pradesh Police under various provisions on July 30. CBI had re-registered the case on August 18 in pursuance to the Allahabad High Court’s interim order.
The apex court had earlier appointed senior advocate F S Nariman as amicus curiae (friend of the court), while framing some legal questions regarding freedom of speech and expression and probable impact of statements of those holding high offices on free and fair probe in such heinous cases.
The court had said it would examine whether such statements are covered under freedom of speech and expression of an individual. It had said the statements, which are not given for self protection, comply with the concept of “constitutional sensitivities”.
The man, whose wife and daughter were gangraped in July on a highway in Bulandshahr, had on August 13 moved the apex court seeking transfer of the case to Delhi, besides lodging of an FIR against Khan as well as several policemen.
The Allahabad High Court had ordered CBI probe into the incident besides deciding to monitor the investigation. PTI
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