A Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday agreed to hear a plea by The Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim against an order of the Meghalaya High Court finding her and her publisher, Shobha Chaudhuri, guilty of contempt.
Shillong/New Delhi: A Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday agreed to hear a plea by The Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim against an order of the Meghalaya High Court finding her and her publisher, Shobha Chaudhuri, guilty of contempt.
The CJI listed the case for hearing on March 15. The SC issued notice and stayed the Meghalaya High Court’s contempt order against the Editor and publisher of the Shillong Times.
The case relates to articles published by the paper on the perks and facilities for retired judges and their families. A Bench comprising Chief Justice M.Y. Mir and Justice S.R. Sen of the Meghalaya High Court, taking umbrage at two reports published in The Shillong Times, had held the newspaper liable for contempt of court.
One of the articles titled, “When judges judge for themselves”, had drawn parallels between the order by Justice SR Sen and an order passed by two former judges of the High Court in 2016.
The High Court invoked its powers under Article 215 of the Constitution to sentence the contemners.
The two were made to sit in a corner of the courtroom as a punishment till the judges rose for the day and fined ₹2 lakh each. Failure to deposit the amount would result in six months of simple imprisonment and a ban on the paper.
The Press Council of India said the conviction of a newspaper editor will have “adverse impact” on the freedom of press and would file an application to implead itself in the case.
The Shillong Times, first published in 1945, is said to be one of the oldest English-language newspapers in the region.
The Editor’s Guild had also condemned the High Court’s order, calling it “intimidatory”. The Guild said the court’s order, “which among other things imposes a fine along with a threat of imprisonment and a ban on the publication, is intimidatory and undermines press freedom”.
It is “ironical”, it said, that the judiciary “which should uphold press freedom has instead issued an order that militates against freedom of expression” and urged the judiciary “to exercise its constitutional powers with utmost caution so that the role of a free media in a democracy is duly respected”.