The Meghalaya High Court on Friday imposed a fine of ₹2 lakh each on The Shillong Times Editor Patricia Mukhim and publisher Shobha Chaudhuri and ordered them to sit in the corner of the courtroom till the rising of the court in a contempt case.
The case relates to an order by Justice Sudip Ranjan Sen on the perks and facilities for retired judges and their families.
The report on December 10, 2018, headlined “When judges judge for themselves” likened the order to that of Meghalaya High Court’s former Chief Justice Uma Nath Singh and former Justice T.K.N. Singh on January 7, 2016 for providing them Z-category and Y-category security respectively.
The Supreme Court later quashed the order seeking special category security.
‘Sit in the corner’
Issuing the order, a Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir said that Ms. Mukhim and Ms. Chaudhuri would have to undergo six months of simple imprisonment and the newspaper would be banned if they fail to deposit the amount within a week.
“In exercise of the power vested on us by Article 215 of the Constitution of India, we sentence both the contemnors to sit in the corner of the courtroom till the rising of the court and impose a fine of ₹2 lakh each which is to be deposited with the Registry within a week and then to be deposited in the welfare fund of this high court,” the Bench said.
“We also further direct that in default of payment, both the contemnors will have to undergo six months simple imprisonment and the paper so-called Shillong Times will automatically come to an end,” the Bench said while disposing of the contempt case.
Ms. Mukhim reacted by posting on Facebook: “We are told that the press is the fourth estate to keep the legislature, executive and judiciary in check. We are also exhorted by the most enlightened souls that the purpose of journalism is to afflict those in comfort zones and to comfort the afflicted and the voiceless. If the mighty are offended with us we must be doing something right in our journalism and not propaganda.”
The day The Shillong Times carried the report the High Court found contemptuous, Justice Sen had appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Centre to grant instantaneous citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. This was while admitting a petition of an Army recruit who was denied domicile certificate by the Meghalaya government.