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When the hacks forgot their promise

Vidya Subrahmaniam

NEW DELHI: When she deposed in the Ayodhya demolition case on Friday, IPS officer Anju Gupta took her oath on Maryada Purushotam Ram and the Bharatiya samvidan (Indian Constitution).

The Rae Bareli court complex was packed with reporters and photographers waiting to swoop down on Ms. Gupta. Seeing the rush, Chief Judicial Magistrate Gulab Singh ordered that the court be cleared of journalists.

Frustrated, they petitioned the District Judge of Rae Bareli, who allowed them in on condition that they keep total silence and switch off their mobile phones. No sooner did Ms. Gupta arrive than the hacks forgot their promise. Cellphones were out in a flash, and headlines dictated to their offices even as Ms. Gupta was testifying. Which is how the TV channels got their non-stop “Anju Gupta breaking news.”

The deposition got repeatedly stalled. In the beginning, because defence lawyers objected to the prosecution's “leading questions.” Later it got stuck as the judge was curious about at least one English word. Ms. Gupta testified that with the arrival of kar sevaks in large numbers, the writ of the State considerably weakened at Ayodhya. The judge wanted to know if by “writ” she meant a writ petition. An overeager lawyer prompted her to say “command” instead of “writ”. The judge, who was taking down the deposition by hand, looked at him, smiled and said, “Let me write ‘writ' for now. We will bother with the meaning later.”

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