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[Malegaon Blasts] “This is open court; If you want to rely on any document, give copy to other side:” Bombay High Court to Lt Col Purohit

Counsel for Purohit argued that the documents are confidential and that serving them to the other side will "open a Pandora's box".

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed 2008 Malegaon Blasts case accused Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit to ensure that the documents upon which he relies to make his arguments are served upon the opposite parties before such arguments are made.

The Bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale underscored that the hearing transpiring before the court is an open court hearing and any documents which Lt Col Purohit wants the court to examine will have to necessarily be served on the other party.

“This is an open court. If you want to rely on any document, other side is entitled to receive it,” Justice Shinde remarked.

This is an open court. If you want to rely on any document, other side is entitled to receive it.
Bombay High Court

The Court also turned down a request by Lt Col Purohit’s counsel to pass directions to the opposite parties to refrain from sharing such documents with the media if a copy is served on them.

The Court was hearing a plea alleging that the cognizance taken by the Special Court against Lt Col Purohit in the Malegaon Blasts case was without obtaining the requisite sanction from the government under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

The Bench was given a document today by advocate Shrikant Shivade, who made submissions on behalf of Purohit.

Since the previous hearing, Shivade had been relying upon documents from the Army to show how Purohit had been part of the “conspiracy meetings” as part of his official duty.

Shivade produced a certified copy of a handwritten letter which he claimed was written by Purohit and contained all details which he had been giving his superior.

Before even taking cognizance of the letter, Justice Shinde asked Shivade if he had served a copy on the other side.

When Shivade replied in the negative, Justice Shinde stated that if he wanted to rely on any document, he has to give a copy of that document to the other side before making his submissions.

“If you want us to refer to any document, then you can do so only after giving copy to other side. If you want to rely on any document, you submit on affidavit and serve to the other side. If you want us to look into it and give reasons in judgment you will have to serve the other side,” Justice Shinde remarked.

Shivade then raised apprehensions over serving the documents on the other side. He argued that the documents are confidential and that serving them to the other side will “open a Pandora’s box”. He claimed that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the intervenor will start taking time in the hearing.

Justice Shinde retorted that if Shivade did not want anyone to know about the documents, he ought not have tendered them in the first place.

The Court also asked Shivade why he did not take steps to bring these documents on record. Shivade responded that he had not submitted them so far because there was a judicial order which prevented him from doing so.

Shivade argued that considering the exceptions to the principles of natural justice, he ought to be exempted from serving the documents upon the other side.

To this, Justice Shinde quipped that “principles of natural justice apply to the other side too!”

Justice Shinde also suggested that Shivade consult his client before filing any document if the submission is going to be contrary to any order prohibiting him from doing so. He may also seek necessary permissions from the Court or his department, Justice Shinde added.

Shivade agreed to file an affidavit and sought time to get the necessary permissions. He also sought directions from the Court to the other side to not share it with the media.

The Court, however, refused to pass any such directions.

“That we cannot comment on. Once something comes in public domain, we have no control over that. You can write to them, and take their consent,” Justice Shinde suggested.

The Bench also refused to accede to the suggestion of Shivade to conduct an in-camera trial.

“Once we write the detailed judgment, it will be accessible to anyone. And we will be giving reasons. We will also have relied upon evidence submitted to us,” the Court remarked.

When Shivade raised concerns over the fact that the department might read the documents, the Court suggested that he could submit the affidavit to the Court, which they will read and then decide if they want to take the documents on record.

Granting a week’s time to Purohit to file and serve the affidavit, the Court adjourned the matter for further hearing on March 17.

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