Karnataka High Court relief for scribes facing jail for breach of privilege

The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday directed the state legislative assembly not to pursue with the privilege proceedings against the editors of two Kannada tabloids, who had been sentenced to a one-year jail term by the House, until further orders. “Since it is a constitutional matter, it is for the court to hear both the parties before arriving at a decision or passing a judgement,” Justice A S Bopanna said.

Passing interim orders on the petitions filed by the two journalists, challenging the House resolution sentencing them to the prison term, the judge directed the Assembly not to pursue with the proceedings until further orders.

He directed the respondents to file their objections, if any, and posted the matter for the next hearing in four weeks’ time.

On June 21, the Assembly had passed a resolution to punish the journalists, based on the recommendations of the Privileges Committee of the House.

 It had sentenced Ravi Belagere and Anil Raju, the editors of ‘Hi Bangalore’ and ‘Yelahanka Voice’ magazines respectively, to one year in jail for breach of privilege for their alleged defamatory articles against state legislators.

The Assembly, during its Winter Session held at Belagavi on November 21, had rejected by a voice-vote a motion seeking a reconsideration of the punishment and a fine of Rs 10,000 each on the two editors.

The Editors’ Guild of India had termed the punishment by the legislature a “gross misuse” of power and maintained that it had violated the fundamental right of freedom of speech.

The journalists had earlier moved the high court, contending that the resolution sentencing them to the jail term was illegal and unconstitutional and seeking that it be quashed.

The high court had then advised the parties to solve the matter amicably and disposed off the petitions after both the journalists said they would appear before the Assembly speaker and seek a revision of the resolution.

Accordingly, the two editors visited the speaker’s office, seeking a review of the resolution and submitted their arguments and representations through their lawyers.


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