The Press Council of India has said it will file an application to implead itself in the Meghalaya High Court’s order convicting Shillong Times’ editor Patricia Mukhim and publisher Shobha Chaudhuri for contempt. The council said the conviction of a newspaper editor will have “adverse impact” on the freedom of press.
The contempt order, passed on March 8, is in connection with two stories that the Shillong-based newspaper published in December 2018 about a court order seeking better facilities for retired judges and their families. 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 report had said that according to the order, Sen, who incidentally retired on March 8, 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 had said.
“The judgement is vulnerable on many counts,” Justice CK Prasad, chairman of the Press Council of India, said in a statement. “The honourable judge ought to have kept in mind that by making unnecessary observations, he had thrust the office of the Judge in front of the firing line.”
The council, if allowed to file an application for impleadment, will present that the conviction was uncalled for, Prasad said.
On March 8, the court imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh each on Mukhim and Chaudhuri. In case they fail to pay the amount within a week, the court said that the two would be imprisoned for six months and the daily will be banned.