The Supreme Court on Monday stayed criminal contempt proceedings against author and Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy for publishing an article expressing her personal anguish in the prosecution and incarceration of paraplegic former Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba.
Saibaba was, later in March 2017, sentenced to life imprisonment for Maoist links.
When the Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar asked whether she would like to tender an apology for her article and end the case against her, Ms. Roy, through her counsel, bluntly refused the offer.
“This is not at all a case for an apology,” senior advocate C.U. Singh, flanked by advocate Prashant Bhushan, responded to the court.
Immediately thereafter, the CJI ordered further proceedings in the Bombay High Court to be stayed. Ms. Roy had argued that the criminal case against her was tantamount to choking the voice of opposition in a democracy and produced an “intense chilling effect” on the fundamental right of free expression.
The article published in an English magazine, Mr. Singh said, had only revealed the author’s personal anguish at the plight of Mr. Saibaba, who is ninety per cent disabled, wheelchair-bound and suffers from a degenerative medical condition that requires constant medical care.
She contended there was no “game plan” or “mala fide motive” to interfere in the administration of justice on behalf of Mr. Saibaba.
“By criticising the actions or the lack thereof, of the Legislature, the Judiciary or the Executive, a citizen is merely exercising his or her fundamental right to express ‘opposition’ to the government or one of its wings. Such opposition is fundamental to the very meaning of democracy and should be recognised as a basic feature of the Constitution of India,” Ms. Roy had contended against the December 23, 2015 criminal contempt notice served on her.