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Luthra for NDTV vs Anand and Khan in BMW hit-and-run case

Luthra & Luthra has advised long-standing client NDTV in the Supreme Court against allegations that its so-called BMW hit-and-run case sting operation was in contempt of court and amounted to "trial by media".

Luthra & Luthra partner Vijay Sondhi and associates Varun Pareek and Kapil Arora represented NDTV in court, with the assistance of senior advocate Harish Salve. NDTV was not a party to the proceedings but had received notice to appear.

The appellants were senior defence counsel RK Anand, who was represented by senior counsel Altaf Ahmed, and public prosecutor IU Khan, who was represented by senior counsel P. P. Rao.

They had appealed against a suspension by the Delhi High Court after the NDTV sting operation revealed them to have attempted to influence a witness in the criminal case of Sanjeev Nanda's drunk driving in a BMW that led to the death of six people.

A Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices B.N. Agrawal, G.S. Singhvi and Aftab Alam reviewed the unedited recordings of the NDTV sting-operation. The court decided to uphold the conviction of Anand but acquitted Khan.

The court expressed its "concern on the falling professional norms among the lawyers with considerable pain because we strongly feel that unless the trend is immediately arrested and reversed, it will have very deleterious consequences for administration of justice in the country."

The Supreme Court bench also said: "It is not our intent here to lay down any reformist agenda for the media. Any attempt to control and regulate the media from outside is likely to cause more harm than good.

"For all its faults the stings and the telecast of the sting programme by NDTV rendered valuable service to the important public cause to protect and salvage the purity of the course of justice.

"We appreciate the professional initiative and courage shown by the young reporter Poonam Agarwal and we are impressed by the painstaking investigation undertaken by NDTV to uncover the Shimla connection between Kulkarni and RK Anand."

Agarwal told Legally India that she was pleased the two year court battle was finally over. "I was so relieved that finally the judgement has come and that the Supreme Court has shown it was done in the public interest."

The Bar Council of Delhi is set to evaluate the effect of the Supreme Court judgement on the pending Bar Council proceedings against Anand and Khan.

In respect of Anand and Khan, Bar Council of India chairman Suraj Narain Prasad Sinha told Legally India last month: "As far as the cases against these two lawyers are concerned, we are the appellate authority.

"The matter is pending before the state Bar Council. The matter should have come to us automatically but we are yet to receive anything from Bar Council of Delhi ... It is a serious matter. And we will surely look into this." Sinha could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.

Photo by: WillVision Photography

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