As part of its efforts to find a solution to an imbroglio over an order issued by the Karnataka legislature to arrest two journalists for breach of privilege, the Karnataka High Court on Friday suggested acceptance of an apology by the two journalists by the Speaker and convening of the legislature to reconsider the arrest order. With the office of the Speaker indicating reluctance to accept the proposal, the matter was adjourned for hearing on Saturday. The judge made the suggestion during the hearing of a joint petition filed by journalists Ravi Belagere, editor of the weekly tabloid Hi Bangalore, and Anil Raj, editor of a local publication titled Yelahanka Voice, against an order issued for their arrest on the basis of a resolution passed by the Assembly on June 21.
Justice Ashok B Hinchigeri has asked Speaker K B Koliwad, who is the complainant in one of the breach of privilege cases, and the state government whether orders to arrest the two journalists can be kept in abeyance until a meeting of the legislature is convened to reconsider the matter —- if the two editors appear before the Speaker and tender an apology. Additional advocate general A S Ponnana, however, told the court that the two editors would have to surrender before the law to be arrested before any consideration can be given.
Journalists must not trample on privileges of legislators and legislators need to know that the press is the fourth estate and there has to be a balance, Justice Hinchigeri said. Insisting on surrender will be too harsh, the court said. Justice Hinchigeri said the legislature had been successful in sending out the message that journalists cannot write what they want. He said that journalists like Arun Shourie and R K Karanjia did not hit below the belt while doing investigative journalism.
The court said that it would take up the petitions filed by the two journalists if the state and the journalists were unable to sort the matter out “in the interest of the entire system”. The court expressed apprehension that it could end up interfering with the powers of the legislature if an order is issued not to arrest the two journalists.