SC disallows use of TV interview in gang-rape trial

New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday suspended the Delhi High Court’s order permitting the Dec 16 Delhi gang-rape accused to use TV interview of the victim’s friend to confront the authenticity of his evidence before the trial court.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, while suspending the March 7 order of the High Court, also issued notice to the accused in the case.
The 23-year-old woman was brutally gang-raped and his friend beaten up in a moving bus Dec 16, 2012. The victim died Dec 29.
Six people, including a juvenile, were arrested for the crime and one of them, the driver of the bus, hanged himself in jail March 11.
The victim’s male friend in January had given an interview to a TV news channel recounting the incident.
The apex court suspendeed the high court order after Solicitor General Mohan Prasaran mentioned the matter and said he was seeking a limited stay of the order permitting the use of CD of the interview of the victim’s friend to scrutinise the veracity of his other evidences.
The high court issued its order on the application by the accused challenging the rejection by the additional sessions judge presiding over the fast-track court of their plea to use the CD as evidence in the course of the trial.
The single judge of the high court by its impugned order had said that additional sessions judge trying the case had “acted illegally in shutting the petitioners’ right to put the TV interview of ‘PW1’ (victim’s friend) for the purpose of contradicting him with his previous statement or to test his veracity or to impeach his credibility.”
The high court passed its order while setting aside the additional sessions judge’s order Feb 8 which declined the accused’s plea to be allowed to use the CD purportedly containing the interview.
Appearing for the Delhi government, Prasaran told the apex court that despite its several decisions deprecating the use of media interviews in the course of the criminal trial, the high court had allowed the admissibility of the television interview of the sole eyewitness in the trial.
The apex court was told that the use of media interview in the trial in criminal cases would have direct effect on the administration of justice.
The court was told that it would lead to the “erosion of the sanctity of a judicial trial and will result in causing undue interference in the criminal justice process by persons and bodies with vested interests.”
The petition assailed the high court order by which it had, while allowing the use of CD having the audio recording of the interview, dispensed with the requirement of establishing the authenticity of the voice recording. The court said the CD would be deemed to be authentic unless it was disputed by the witness.
The apex court was told that high court order was “patently illegal” as it “allowed the defence to circumvent the test (of authenticating the recording) laid down” by it.
The petition said the high court had left the “requirement of proving the authenticity of the CD to the better judgment of the witness”.
The high court said that the accused would have to “prove the authenticity of the CD if the same is disputed by the witness.”