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Report No. 198

3.2 The West Bengal Act of 1932: exclusion of persons or public from Court:

In the pre-constitutional state of law, we had section 31 of the Bengal Suppression of Terrorist Outrages Act, 1932 which empowered a Special Magistrate to exclude persons or public from precincts of the Court. Section 31 reads as follows:

"Section 31.- A special Magistrate may, if he thinks fit, order at any stage of a trial that the public generally, or any particular person, shall not have access to, or remain in the room or building used by the Special Magistrate as a Court:

Provided that where in any case the Public Prosecutor or Advocate-General, as the case may be, certifies in writing to the special Magistrate that it is expedient in the interests of public, peace or safety, or of peace or safety of any of the witnesses in the trial that the public generally should not have access to, or be or remain in the room or building used by the special Magistrate as a Court, the special Magistrate shall order accordingly."

The aforesaid provision clearly states that the safety of the witnesses at trial was considered as a ground for exclusion of public from a criminal trial. But, it will be noticed that while the main part of the section gives discretion to the Magistrate to exclude any person or public from the Court, the proviso gives importance to the certificate of the Public Prosecutor or Advocate-General for such exclusion and gives little discretion to the Court in the matter of exclusion of the public or a person from the court-hall.

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