Lay The Press Off: SC Asks TN

New Delhi, Nov 11: | Updated: Nov 11 2003, 05:30am hrs
The Supreme Court has stayed arrest warrants issued by the Tamil Nadu Assembly speaker against five senior journalists of The Hindu and the editor of DMK mouthpiece Murasoli while issuing notice on petitions challenging a resolution of the House sentencing them to 15 days imprisonment for breach of privilege.

An apex court bench comprising justices YK Sabharwal and SB Sinha on Monday issued notices to the speaker, the Assembly secretary, the Jayalalithaa government, the state DGP, the Karnataka government and other top Tamil Nadu police officials on the petitions filed by the journalists.

The bench, while ex-parte staying the arrest warrants issued by speaker on November 7 pursuant to the resolution, restrained the TN police from executing the warrants.

On the request of the petitioner, the bench directed the registry to forthwith intimate TN and its officers about the stay of arrest warrants by the apex court. However, the court said it will hear respondents on the prayer of the petitioners challenging the legality of the November 7 resolution.

The bench observed every institution, be it legislature, media or judiciary, has to respect the other institutions. None of the institutions should cross the Lakshman Rekha or be hyper-sensitive to harsh words of criticism. The five journalists of The Hindu are editor N Ravi, executive editor Malini Parathasarthy, publisher S Rangarajan, chief of bureau V Jayant and special correspondent Radha Venkatesan and S Selvam of the Murasoli.

The court issued notice to Attorney General Soli J Sorabjee seeking his assistance in the matter and directed the petitions to be listed after three weeks for further hearing.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for The Hindu, was countered right at the beginning of hearing by the bench which asked him to elaborate about the scope and extent to which the court could interfere in the matter. The bench sought to know as to what extent the judicial review can be exercised in matters pertaining to the orders passed by the speaker under Article 194 of Constitution dealing with the privileges of the House.