The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday opposed an intervention application filed by journalists covering the 2008 Malegaon Blasts trial against the NIA’s plea to conduct the proceedings in-camera..For in-camera hearings, the general public and the media are barred from attending the case hearings or reporting on them..In its reply filed before the Special Court in Mumbai, the NIA has called into question the locus standi of journalists to intervene in the matter. It has also stressed on the sensitivity of the case, citing risk to important witnesses..Special Public Prosecutor Avinash Rasal, appearing for the NIA, filed a reply on Monday. It states,.“The journalists are not party to the proceedings of this case; therefore, they do not have locus in the matter for interference at this stage. The intervention has been sought to delay the proceedings and to disturb smooth working of the court proceedings.”.The NIA further stated that the sensitivity of the matter is known to journalists, as the allegations against the accused include an offence to create a rift between two communities. The reply further states,.“Considering the sensitive nature of the case, the prosecution agencies Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and NIA, had obtained permission for truncation of identity of protected witnesses from the court….…Prosecution is in favour of freedom of press and right to information, but considering sensitive nature of the case, NIA has filed an application for in-camera trial.“.Special judge VS Padalkar will hear arguments by the journalists, the NIA, as well as the respondents on Tuesday..BJP MP Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit are among the accused facing trial in the 2008 Malegaon Blasts case..The NIA’s application for in-camera proceedings was filed on August 1 under Section 17(1) of the NIA Act and Section 44 (1) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). .On August 5, eleven journalists belonging to different newspapers, television channels, and news agencies filed an application through advocates Rizwan Merchant and Gayatri Gokhale, requesting that the Court hear them before hearing the NIA’s plea for an in-camera trial. The intervention application states,.“NIA has not complained or suggested that the witnesses are facing any form of threat or intimidation resulting in an unfair trial as the records of the proceedings are reported or published.”.The application also states that the intervenors will ensure all measures to secure the identity and addresses of the witnesses in the Malegaon Blasts case. Further,.“In case of complaints apprehending threat to the life of any witness, remedies under the Witness Protection Program can be employed & security/protection can be given to the witness. Therefore, gagging the media is not warranted in any circumstance.”.The NIA, in its reply to this application filed on Monday, said that it wanted to secure the protection of key witnesses in the case..Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit, one of the accused, had filed an application in 2016 to hold the proceedings in the Malegaon Blasts case in-camera. The Special Court had partly allowed his application and restricted the in-camera proceedings to the framing of charges against him..In another instance in 2017, a Special CBI judge in Mumbai had restricted the media from reporting on the trial concerning the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati. The order of the CBI judge was, however, quashed and set aside by the Bombay High Court on January 24, 2018..NIA to make plea for protection for 38 witnesses.On a related note, the Bombay High Court on August 2 gave liberty to the NIA to file an application before the Special Court to ensure police protection for thirty-eight witnesses it wishes to examine..Out of 475 witnesses, the NIA had truncated the names and statements of 186 witnesses. The prosecution has thus far examined 124 witnesses..“Of these, 38 are most important and sensitive and thus we will be filing an application before the special court to grant protection to these witnesses,” Advocate Sandesh Patil said, appearing on behalf of the NIA before the High Court..Patil had further told the High Court that the NIA is willing to give non-truncated statements of those prosecution witnesses who have not yet deposed before the trial court, to accused Lt. Col. Purohit..Earlier, NIA counsel Avinash Rasal had opposed Purohit’s plea before the Special Court and had said that since the matter is sensitive, the names of prosecution witnesses cannot be shared with accused..Last month, the High Court had directed the NIA to submit a list of witnesses in a sealed cover, after Lt Col Purohit filed an application for production of the non-truncated chargesheet. Purohit had filed a plea for the disclosure of the names of witnesses in the case as well. A Division Bench of Justices Indrajit Mahanty and AM Badar dealt with the plea..On July 22, the Bombay High Court directed the NIA to place on record the entire schedule for the prosecution case, with details of day to day proceedings within two weeks.