The High Court of Meghalaya has asked The Shillong Times to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against the newspaper for an article it published about a court order seeking better facilities for retired judges and their families. The article titled “When judges judge for themselves” was published in the local daily on December 10.
The court asked The Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim and publisher Shobha Chaudhuri to appear in court on Thursday. The article had drawn parallels between the recent order by Justice SR Sen and an order passed by two former judges of the High Court in 2016.
Mukhim declined to comment on the matter.
The show-cause notice, issued by Sen himself, said the “media is not to dictate to the court what the court should do”. “It is really shocking that the publisher and editor of the said newspaper without knowing the law or background of the case are making comments which are definitely derogatory to a judge who is handling the case as well as the entire fraternity of the judges,” the notice said. “When the matter is pending before the court, media has no business to comment on it.”
The report had said that according to the order, Sen, who is scheduled to retire in March, wanted several provisions for retired chief justices and judges and their spouses and children. “Besides providing medical facilities for the spouses and children, the order stressed the need for providing protocol, guest houses, domestic help, mobile/internet charge at the rate of Rs 10,000 and mobile for Rs 80,000 for judges,” the report said.
According to The Shillong Times article, in the 2016 order, a bench had asked for Z-category security for then Chief Justice Umanath Singh and Y-category security for then judge TNK Singh, who were due to retire soon. Both judges were on the bench that passed the order. The Supreme Court, however, reduced the provision to normal security facilities after a Meghalaya resident challenged the order, the local daily said.
The recent order by Sen was reminiscent of that order in 2016, the daily said.
In September 2016, however, Umanath Singh had written to the Supreme Court’s secretary general, claiming that an “incorrect picture is being portrayed about my security status after retirement and the need” for it, according to Live Law. The former chief justice denied demanding Z-category security, the second-highest VVIP security cover.
“I may inform the court that soon after my retirement on January 14, 2016, the assessment of my threat perception was conducted by the Intelligence Bureau and thereafter I have been provided only two personal security officers and three armed police personnel,” the former chief justice was quoted as saying months after the order. “I may say that while working on a sensitive position as Chief Justice of Meghalaya, an insurgency infested state, the full bench and division bench headed by me have passed orders only in the interest of national security.”