M A I N   N E W S

Four Mid-Day staffers jailed
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 21
Four functionaries of the tabloid Mid-Day, including two journalists, were today awarded four months’ sentence for committing contempt of court by writing a series of articles against former Chief Justice of India Y K Sabharwal relating to the orders passed by a Bench, headed by him, in sealing of commercial ventures in the Capital.

Since the Supreme Court had granted interim bail to them on September 19, a high court Bench of Justices R S Sodhi and B N Chatturvedi ordered their release on bail after pronouncing the sentence.

The Supreme Court in its interim order had said that if they were sentenced by the high court, they be granted bail till their appeal was taken up for hearing by the apex court, which has fixed its hearing for September 28.

Those awarded the sentence are: tabloid's Editor M K Tayal, former publisher S K Akhtar, Resident Editor Vitusha Oberoi and cartoonist Irfan Khan. They had been found guilty of contempt of court by the Bench in its judgement passed on September 11, against which they swiftly moved the apex court in an appeal.

The high court Bench said “we feel, in this peculiar case, the contemnors have tarnished the image of the highest court, the sentence of four months' imprisonment would serve the justice.”

While granting bail to them, the high court directed the four to furnish a personal bond of Rs 10,000 each and two sureties of the like amount to complete the bail formality. All of them stood calmly in the packed court room when the sentence was pronounced.

The court in its conviction order on September 11 had said that they had crossed the “Lakshaman Rekha” by publishing the articles against Justice Sabharwal and in the garb of it had “scandalised” not only him but the institution of the Supreme Court.

Besides publishing the articles, Mid-Day had published cartoons of Justice Sabharwal, painting him in bad taste.

The high court had taken suo motu action against the Mid-Day functionaries on May 18 after the articles had appeared and continued to appear at frequent intervals even when the mater was being heard by the court.

Oberoi later said that they had taken “truth” as their defence as provided under the amended contempt laws.

Reacting to the judgement, she claimed that under the law a retired judge, be it a CJI or any judge, did not have protection under the contempt law.

Journalists also held a demonstration to protest against the conviction and award of punishment to the journalists and other functionaries of the tabloid.



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