K'taka HC stays Assembly's order to arrest two tabloid editors

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K'taka HC stays Assembly's order to arrest two tabloid editors

Thursday, 07 December 2017 | Kestur Vasuki | Bengaluru

In a major relief to two tabloid editors — Ravi Belagere and Anil Raju — who are facing contempt and a jail term sentenced by the Karnataka Assembly has been stayed by the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday. 

The single Bench judge Justice AS Bopanna directed the State legislative Assembly not to pursue with the privilege proceedings against the editors of two Kannada tabloids, who had been sentenced to a one-year jail term by the House, until further orders.

"Since it is a constitutional matter, it is for the court to hear both the parties before arriving at a decision or passing a judgement," Justice AS Bopanna said.

Karnataka legislative Assembly while convicting two journalists in the winter session had imposed a year sentence  and Rs 10,000 fine for alleged breach of privilege due to certain articles published by the two.

Earlier in June, the Assembly had adopted the recommendations of the a privileges committee to imprison and fine Ravi Belagere, editor of Hi Bengaluru, weekly and Anil Raju of Yelahanka Voice.  The committee had examined the alleged defamatory articles against three legislators including KB Koliwad, (now Speaker) BM Nagaraj (both member of the Congress) and BJP MlA SR Vishwanath. In the last session, only three MlA's argued in favour of reconsidering the sentence while all the other legislators had supported the conviction.

The High Court in its interim order asked the Karnataka Assembly not to arrest them until further notice. The HC then posted the case for hearing in four weeks’ time.

The journalists had earlier moved the High Court, contending that the resolution sentencing them to the jail term was illegal and unconstitutional and seeking that it be quashed.

The High Court had then advised the parties to solve the matter amicably and disposed off the petitions after both the journalists said they would appear before the Assembly speaker and seek a revision of the resolution. Accordingly, the two editors visited the speaker's office, seeking a review of the resolution and submitted their arguments and representations through their lawyers.

Editors Guild of India (EGI) had requested the Assembly to withdraw its resolution and called the move a “pernicious as well as gross misuse of the powers and privileges”. Senior Advocate Shankarappa argued for journalists.

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