Activist Sudha Bharadwaj’s plea against NIA to withdraw ‘defamatory’ remarks rejected

A SPECIAL court on Friday rejected an application by law professor and activist Sudha Bharadwaj that sought directions to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to withdraw “defamatory” allegations made against her in a written reply filed by the agency.

Bharadwaj had filed a plea in December, seeking access to unredacted copies of statements of witnesses recorded under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The NIA, in its reply, had opposed the plea and alleged that access to statements was sought to cause harm to the witnesses.

Bharadwaj had then filed a separate plea, seeking that directions be given to NIA to withdraw such allegations. Her plea said that there is absolutely no proof that she would cause harm to any witness and that on the contrary, she has spent over 20 years in the service of people.

The application further said that the court cannot be reduced to a forum where “gossip and slander can be bandied about under the guise of legal arguments”. The NIA had opposed the plea.

Special public prosecutor Prakash Shetty submitted to the court that the reply had stated that disclosing information, which can lead to revealing the identities of the accused, could lead to a possibility of threat to their lives and hence, a provision in law is available to protect them. Shetty added that this was not a defamatory statement and hence, the plea should be rejected.

While the court had earlier allowed Bharadwaj’s plea seeking access to the witness statements, it considered the NIA’s stand opposing withdrawal of the alleged “defamatory” responses.