Legal fraternity condemns conviction of journos by HC

Legal fraternity condemns conviction of journos by HC

NEW DELHI: Even as the Delhi High Court today sentenced four journalists from Delhi‘s Mid-Day afternooner to four months‘ imprisonment for contempt of court for writing and publishing news reports critical of the former Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal, several legal luminaries and media organisations demanded a probe into the allegations made by the mediapersons.

A Division Bench of Justice RS Sodhi and Justice BN Chaturvedi also asked the journalists to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 each. However, the journalists were granted bail in accordance with a Supreme Court order which had asked that the four be given bail after pronouncement of sentence. The Court had found the four guilty on 11 September but announced the sentence today.





The High Court convicted the journalists for reports in the paper alleging Sabharwal had ordered the sealing of a large number of commercial establishments in New Delhi last year to benefit his sons who entered into partnerships with shopping malls and developers of commercial complexes.

The four journalists convicted are Mid-Day City Editor MK Tayal, the then Publisher SK Akhtar, Resident Editor Vitusha Oberoi, and cartoonist Irfan Khan. The four will appeal the judgement in the Supreme Court.

"We feel, in this peculiar case, the contemnors have tarnished the image of the highest court and the sentence of four months‘ imprisonment would serve the justice," the Bench said. The court directed the four to furnish a personal bond of Rs 10,000 each and two sureties of the same amount for the bail.

The court which taken suo motu notice of the case had on 11 September said the journalists had crossed the Laxman Rekha. "The publications in the garb of scandalising a retired Chief Justice of India have, in fact, attacked the very institution, which according to us, is nothing short of contempt," the Bench said in its judgement on articles and cartoons that appeared in the newspaper about Sabharwal.







Senior Supreme Court lawyer and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan told Indiantelevision.com that the judgment was totally wrong and tantamount to curb the freedom of the media to expose corruption and wrong-doing.

He said that Parlianent had itself amended the Contempt of Courts Act last year to say that if the allegations against a judge were found to be true, then they would not be considered contemptuous. Therefore, the judgement was only aimed at terrifying the media and an attempt to curb truthfulness.

He said that since several luminaries including former judge VR Krishna Iyer had written about the reports, the implication of the High Court judgment was that even these writers should be tried for contempt.

He said the appeal before the Supreme Court was coming up for preliminary hearing in 28 September.

The Editors Guild also condemned the judgement, describing it as an attack on the freedom of the press.

Earlier this week, a section of the legal fraternity and civil society organisations demanded a high-level probe into allegations of corruption against the former chief justice by a high-level committee comprising of retired chief justices of India to expose corruption in the judiciary..


Earlier, Sabharwal in an article in a newspaper and also on a private TV news channel denied the allegations of judicial misconduct on his part during the adjudication of cases related to commercial activities in residential premises of the capital.


But at a press meet earlier this week, noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan, social activists Swami Agnivesh and Magsaysay awardee Arvind Kejriwal refuted Sabharwal‘s claims and maintained that there was enough proof to suggest that the former chief justice furthered the business interests of his sons through his judicial decisions in the Delhi sealing drive cases.


They also felt that the Court could not convict the mediapersons without examining the documentary evidence produced by the journalists.












Senior Supreme Court lawyer and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan told Indiantelevision.com that the judgment was totally wrong and tantamount to curb the freedom of the media to expose corruption and wrong-doing.

He said that Parlianent had itself amended the Contempt of Courts Act last year to say that if the allegations against a judge were found to be true, then they would not be considered contemptuous. Therefore, the judgement was only aimed at terrifying the media and an attempt to curb truthfulness.

He said that since several luminaries including former judge VR Krishna Iyer had written about the reports, the implication of the High Court judgment was that even these writers should be tried for contempt.

He said the appeal before the Supreme Court was coming up for preliminary hearing in 28 September.

The Editors Guild also condemned the judgement, describing it as an attack on the freedom of the press.

Earlier this week, a section of the legal fraternity and civil society organisations demanded a high-level probe into allegations of corruption against the former chief justice by a high-level committee comprising of retired chief justices of India to expose corruption in the judiciary..


Earlier, Sabharwal in an article in a newspaper and also on a private TV news channel denied the allegations of judicial misconduct on his part during the adjudication of cases related to commercial activities in residential premises of the capital.


But at a press meet earlier this week, noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan, social activists Swami Agnivesh and Magsaysay awardee Arvind Kejriwal refuted Sabharwal‘s claims and maintained that there was enough proof to suggest that the former chief justice furthered the business interests of his sons through his judicial decisions in the Delhi sealing drive cases.


They also felt that the Court could not convict the mediapersons without examining the documentary evidence produced by the journalists.





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