The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Meghalaya High Court order, holding the editor and publisher of The Shillong Times newspaper guilty of contempt of court and imposing fine of Rs 2 lakh on each of them.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna also issued notice to the HC registrar on the appeal filed by the newspaper editor Patricia Mukhim and publisher Shobha Chaudhuri.
“The Supreme Court has stayed and suspended the judgment passed by the Meghalaya High Court on March 8, 2019. I have full faith that judiciary will protect the freedom of press,” Mukhim told PTI.
The contempt order came regarding two reports published in The Shillong Times, on December 6 and 10 last year, about a court order seeking better facilities for retired judges and their families.
Bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice S R Sen had ordered: “In exercise of the power vested on us by Article 215 of the Constitution of India, we sentence both the contemnors to sit in the corner of the court room till the rising of the court and impose a fine of Rs 2,00,000 each, which is to be deposited with the registry within a week and then to be deposited in the welfare fund of this High Court.”
The HC also said that “in default of payment, both contemnors will have to undergo 6 months simple imprisonment and the paper Shillong Times will automatically come to an end (banned).”
“The first tussle is won but the battle is still on,” Kaustav Paul, the advocate who represented Chaudhuri told The Indian Express.
Paul, who had earlier represented both the publisher and the editor Patricia Mukhim in the Meghalaya HC, added that it was too early to call it a “victory” and said that further hearings will follow.
(With inputs from ENS Guwahati)