The Congress government in Karnataka has tried to distance itself from the Assembly Speaker’s order to arrest two journalists on the basis of recommendations of the privileges committee. “It is not a decision of the government, but was decided by the Assembly,’’ state Law Minister T B Jayachandra said. Police is yet to arrest the journalists.
Meanwhile, working president of the Congress in Karnataka Dinesh Gundu Rao tweeted, “It’s wrong on the part of the privileges committee to sentence journos, goes against all ethics. Karnataka Assembly must review this decision.”
Based on reports tabled in the Assembly by the privileges committee, Speaker K B Koliwad on June 21 ordered a one-year prison term and a fine of Rs 10,000 each for Ravi Belagere, owner and editor of tabloid Hi Bangalore, and Anil Raj, editor of local newspaper Yelahanka Voice.
The breach of privilege motion against Belagere was brought by Koliwad himself when he was an MLA in 2014-15. It was handled by the privileges committee headed by him prior to his appointment as Speaker last year. Belagere brought the charge against Hi Bangalore for a September 2014 article over his alleged attempts to become a state minister.
Congress MLA B M Nagaraj’s request for punitive action against Belagere for not appearing before the privileges committee headed by Koliwad despite multiple notices was upheld by Koliwad as Speaker on June 21.
The Speaker’s order has drawn flak from various quarters. JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy has called it an “unhealthy development’’.
The charge against Anil Raj was brought by BJP MLA S R Vishwanath, who accused the former of continuing to publish defamatory articles despite appearing before the privileges committee once and tendering an apology.