The Karnataka Assembly Tuesday rejected a motion seeking reconsideration of the Speaker’s sentence to two Karnataka journalists to one year in jail for breach of privilege over their alleged defamatory articles against legislators.
A resolution to reconsider the punishment — and a fine of Rs 10,000 each — on Ravi Belagere, editor of Hi Bangalore, and Anil Raju, editor of local newspaper Yelahanka Voice, was rejected by a voice vote.
On June 21, Speaker K B Koliwad had pronounced the punishment on the basis of two reports tabled in the House by different privileges committees.
The breach of privilege motion against Belagere was brought by Koliwad himself in 2014-15, when he was an MLA (he became the Speaker last year) and was handled by a privileges committee that Koliwad himself headed at the time. The breach of privilege charge was over an article published in Hi Bangalore in September 2014 about Koliwad’s alleged bid to get a ministerial berth in the Congress government in Karnataka.
A request by Congress MLA B M Nagaraj to order punitive action against Belagere for not appearing before the privileges committee despite multiple notices was upheld by Koliwad as the Speaker on June 21.
The charge against Anil Raj was brought by BJP MLA S R Vishwanath, who accused the journalist of consistently publishing defamatory articles, and continuing to do so despite appearing before the privileges committee and tendering an apology.
The June 21 Assembly resolution to punish the two journalists had attracted a lot of criticism, with the Editors’ Guild of India calling it “gross misuse” of power in violation of the freedom of speech.
Calling the decision “wrong”, Dinesh Gundu Rao, working president of state Congress, had tweeted, “It’s wrong on the part of the privileges committee to sentence journalists…goes against all ethics. Karnataka assembly must review this decision.”
Belagere and Anil Raj were not arrested by police after they moved High Court stating that the resolution passed by the legislature was illegal and unconstitutional. The court sought to resolve the issue amicably and allowed the journalists to go before the Speaker and seek a revision of the resolution. On July 3, Koliwad agreed to seek reconsideration of the resolution. When a motion for reconsideration of the resolution was tabled Tuesday, legislators cutting across party lines opposed it.