The Editor of a Marathi daily published from Belgaum was summoned before the Legislative Assembly on Monday to apologise to the House for publication of allegedly defamatory reports against two MLAs.
“I am sorry,” said Kiran Thakur, editor of Tarun Bharat, standing in a make-shift dock in the Assembly, in response to a question by Speaker K.G. Bopaiah, who asked him whether he regretted the publication of “baseless” reports against Abhay Patil, a BJP MLA, and Shyam B. Ghatage, a Congress MLA.
But Mr. Thakur’s apology came after he contended that the two MLAs “had blown the issue out of proportion”. The complaint lodged by the two MLAs against the Marathi daily had been referred to the Privileges Committee, which found the editor guilty.
After the Speaker read out a resolution reprimanding him for breach of privilege of the two MLAs, Mr. Thakur read from a prepared text and said, “This step was uncalled for and unwarranted. My newspaper has never published any material to undermine the dignity and supremacy of this House.”
“This clash between the legislature and the ‘freedom of the press’ was unnecessary,” Mr. Thakur said.
He also said that his various responsibilities made it difficult for him to scan every report appearing in the publication, but told the members that “any act that invades the supremacy of the House will not be repeated”.
After Mr. Patil and Mr Ghatage said that they were satisfied with Mr. Thakur’s reply, Mr. Bopaiah sought to draw the curtain on the matter. Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah too expressed themselves against taking the matter any further in the interests of harmonious ties between the people of Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Bid for compromise?
Earlier, there was a long delay between the scheduled start of the day proceedings and the actual appearance of Mr. Thakur in the House amid reports that the central BJP leadership was bringing pressure on the party’s State leadership for a compromise.
Though the dock had been set up in the Assembly, proceedings were delayed by more than an hour even as a senior Minister told reporters that BJP national president Nitin Gadkari was in talks with the party’s State leadership to thrash out a compromise.
“Various parties in Maharashtra and Goa, including leaders belonging to the Congress and the Shiv Sena, are standing by the editor,” the Minister said.
By the time the House met, the dock had been dismantled. When Mr. Bopaiah summoned Mr. Thakur, the Opposition MLAs were on their feet demanding that the dock be erected again and the “accused” editor be made to stand in it.
“Maharashtra cannot dictate terms to Karnataka,” said Congress MLA Sharan Patil.
The Speaker ordered that the dock be set up again.
As soon as Mr. Thakur walked in, escorted by a translator, Congress MLAs, including Deputy Leader of the Opposition T.B. Jayachandra, claimed that the editor was well versed in Kannada, but was pretending to be ignorant of the language.
They also demanded that he be made to speak in Kannada.
However, the Speaker allowed Mr. Thakur to read out his reply in English from a written statement.