Azad Bail Hearing: How Cops Refused to Let Journos Enter Courtroom
The police refused to let lawyers enter the courtroom for Bhim Army Chief’s bail hearing, Vakasha Sachdev recounts.
On the evening of Saturday, 21 December, several of us legal journalists were waiting at the Tis Hazari Court for the production of Chandrasekhar Azad 'Ravan' before a Magistrate.
Azad had been arrested during the intervening night of 20-21 December, in connection with his role in the Daryaganj protests in Delhi, which had seen a private car set on fire, and a lathi-charge by the police.
Others who had been arrested in the case had already been produced before the Duty Magistrate, Metropolitan Magistrate Arjinder Kaur – who had remanded them to two days’ judicial custody and set their bail hearings for 23 December.
All these arrested persons were only brought to the Tis Hazari Court after regular hours at the court had concluded, at 4 pm, which was why they had to be taken to the Duty Magistrate.
Azad Whisked Into Courthouse
Around 6:15-6:30 pm, all of a sudden, Azad was whisked into the courthouse, with a couple of senior legal journalists lucky enough to be swept along.
The rest of us were not even allowed to enter the building by the police, who had locked the doors.
There was no reason for doing so, and no order was provided to us justifying such a decision.
7-8 legal reporters were left outside.
We eventually managed to use other entrances to get inside the building, and after skirting around the monkeys which take over the building after regular hours, we made it into Courtroom 8, where the same Duty Magistrate was conducting the remand hearing for Azad – whose lawyers were, of course, asking for bail.
Woman Journalist Manhandled by Male Cop
The police refused to let us enter the courtroom, once again, without having any order with them justifying this, and it should be noted that no order designating these proceedings as in camera had been passed at the time.
Ms Richa Banka from Hindustan Times was manhandled by one of the male police officers, who repeatedly pushed her in the chest to stop her from entering the courtroom.
As the ruckus grew with the police refusing entry – without any basis for doing so as aforementioned, as these were open proceedings – the judge finally let us inside.
However, she then immediately passed an order directing that the proceedings would be held in camera – without specifying any reasons for the same.
When Azad's lawyer, Mahmood Paracha, objected to this, she overruled him. Even the senior journalists who had been inside were then made to leave.
Under Section 327 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (CrPC), proceedings under the CrPC are meant to be open except in rape cases.
Certain serious laws like the UAPA also provide for in camera proceedings. However, none of those provisions of law were applicable on the case under which Azad had been booked.
The judge in charge kindly agreed to hear our grievances and agreed that there was no reason for these developments to have taken place.
She ensured we got a copy of the order of the Duty Magistrate in Azad's case – which also specified no reasons for making the proceedings in camera. At her instruction, we also submitted our grievances to her in writing and asked her to look into them.
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