Accused in attack he was covering, journalist set to see cases lifted

NAT

Following the Amnesia Pub attack of 2009, journalists and camera crew cutting across channels had been summoned by the police but no charges were pressed. In the 2012 attack, Soorinje, the sole media witness, has been slapped a barrage of charges. Common to all 44 accused are charges of conspiracy, unlawful assembly, armed rioting, criminal trespass, voluntarily causing hurt, wrongful restraint, dacoity, criminal intimidation, assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty, public mischief, and intent to provoke breach of peace. Soorinje has additionally been charged under sections of the Indecent Representation of Women Act, 1986.

The main attackers, including group leader Subhash Padil and six others who are under trial for the 2009 Amnesia Pub attack, too, have been additionally charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967, typically applied to terror cases.

On December 26, hearing a bail petition eventually turned down, Karnataka High Court judge K N Keshavanarayana dwelt on a point made in the chargesheet that Soorinje had done nothing to prevent the incident but asked the attackers to provide better views of the victims' faces. This proved his prima facie participation in the attack, ruled the court, which did not uphold the argument that Soorinje was present as a whistleblower.

The state public prosecutor argued the attackers' objective in having the visual media along was to ensure a telecast that would create an aura of fear among the public.

Justice Keshavanarayana referred to Supreme Court judgments that hold imprisonment of citizens without a trial and conviction a violation of personal liberty, but ruled that "at this stage there is reasonable ground to believe that the petitioners are guilty of the aforesaid offences".

"Accused No 44 being a representative of the media, instead of preventing such incident, prima facie appears to have encouraged the happening of the incident and has helped in videographing the event and thereafter facilitated its telecast which has caused great damage to the dignity and reputation" of the victims of the attack.

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