The Meghalaya High Court on Friday held the editor and publisher of a prominent newspaper of the Northeast guilty of contempt of court, imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh each, and ruled that in case of non-payment of the penalty in a week, the two will be imprisoned for six months and the paper “banned”.
The contempt order — against editor Patricia Mukhim and publisher Shobha Chaudhuri — 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.
The bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice S R Sen 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. We also further direct 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 Shillong Times, first published in 1945, is said to be the region’s one of the oldest English-language newspaper.
Both reports are still available on the newspaper’s website.
Mukhim declined to comment when contacted by The Indian Express.
The court order also referred to multiple social media posts by Mukhim regarding the ongoing case. It said, “…it also appears from the rejoinder affidavit filed by the learned Amicus Curiae that the contemnor, Patricia Mukhim, took the help of social media and even gone to the extent of mocking the judicial system of this country.”
In a post dated December 18 that is cited in the order, Mukhim wrote, “I need few clarifications from friends well versed with legal jurisprudence and those in the legal profession. 1. In a court room should there be a climate of terror where the accused can have no say? 2. Should the legal counsel for the accused be told by a judge to literally “Shut up” and not speak? Then what’s the role of an advocate if he is shouted down?”
Justice Sen had hit the headlines in December 2018 by writing in an order that “nobody should try to make India another Islamic country, otherwise it will be a doomsday for India and the world”. He issued a clarification days later stating that his judgment was “misinterpreted”, and that it was not “politically motivated”.