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Karnataka Legislative Assembly imprisons two editors for a year

June 24, 2017 09:39 AM
Karnataka Legislative Assembly in session (File pic)

Bengaluru: The Karnataka Legislative Assembly’s order to imprison editors of two Kannada tabloids for a year with a fine of Rs. 10,000 for breach of privilege has sparked widespread criticism.

While the two editors are contemplating legal recourse over the unprecedented order, former Chairman of the Legislative Council V.R. Sudarshan said the function of the legislature was to “legislate, not punish.”

In a Facebook post, Mr. Belagere said: “Write against a politician, you will be in jail. That’s the message we got now.” He further said: “I am personally not disturbed by these judgements as I have been battling (sic). I am 100% sure of the successful fight. (sic)” Asmita Basu, Programme Director, Amnesty International of India, said: “Journalists must have the freedom to write critical articles, and politicians must be able to tolerate criticism ...” JD (S) State president H.D. Kumaraswamy described the move as an “unhealthy development.”


There had been instances of admonition for breach of privilege but pronouncing imprisonment was something “unheard of in the history of the Karnataka legislature,” he said, adding that the journalists had the option of filing an appeal before the Speaker.

On Wednesday, the Legislative Assembly adopted the recommendation of the Committee on Privileges to imprison and fine Ravi Belagere of Hai Bengaluruand Anil Raj of Yelahanka Voice . This was after the committee looked into allegedly defamatory articles against three MLAs. Assembly Speaker K.B. Koliwad approved the recommendations.

Hai Bengaluru published articles against Mr. Koliwad himself, besides Congress MLA B.M. Nagaraj. BJP MLA S.R. Vishwanath complained against the Yelahanka Voice .

Former Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa, who is now a Minister, referred the issue to the Privilege Committee in 2014. The committee’s report states that Mr. Belagere had not appeared before it despite repeated summons and Mr. Raj had apologised but continued to write “defamatory” articles.

S. Murthy, Legislature Secretary, has sent the Speaker’s direction to initiate action against the two journalists to the Additional Chief Secretary DPAR Subhash Chandra. Sources in the Secretariat said Mr. Chandra would send the order to the Director-General of Police. Two reports with recommendations of the House have been sent to DG&IGP R.K. Dutta and Bengaluru City Police Commissioner Praveen Sood. “The recommendations have been referred to the Advocate-General. The police can’t immediately arrest the two as warrants have not been issued against them. Based on the AG’s feedback, the Bengaluru city police will take appropriate steps,” Mr. Dutta told The Hindu .

According to sources in Hai Bengaluru , Mr. Belagere is preparing to approach the High Court seeking anticipatory bail and appealing for dismissal of the order.

In a Facebook post, Mr. Belagere said: “Write against a politician, you will be in jail. That’s the message we got now.” He further said: “I am personally not disturbed by these judgements as I have been battling (sic). I am 100% sure of the successful fight. (sic)” Asmita Basu, Programme Director, Amnesty International of India, said: “Journalists must have the freedom to write critical articles, and politicians must be able to tolerate criticism ...” JD (S) State president H.D. Kumaraswamy described the move as an “unhealthy development.”

Two reports with recommendations of the House have now been sent to DG&IGP R.K. Dutta and Bengaluru City Police Commissioner Praveen Sood.

The privileges committee has overreached its mandate in taking up contents of a report that was not about proceedings or events inside the House.

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