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Saturday, October 16, 1999

Anguished SC shrugs off Medha, Arundhati remarks

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA  
NEW DELHI, OCT 15: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed deep anguish over the way Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy and Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar misinformed the public about court's order on Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) but preferred not to initiate contempt proceedings against them.

The court gave a severe tongue lashing to both Patkar and Roy for ``misinforming the public and projecting a totally incorrect picture'' of the court's orders but said it was not inclined to initiate contempt proceedings against them ``keeping in view the importance of the issue of resettlement and rehabilitation of dam oustees''.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice A S Anand, Justice S P Bharucha and Justice B N Kirpal unanimously decided not to initiate contempt proceedings against them.

Justice Bharucha, in a brief but terse order, recorded his disapproval of the statements made by NBA leaders and Roy and said, "I am not inclined to take action in contempt against Medha Patkar, SripadDharmadhikari and Arundhati Roy because the court's shoulders are broad enough to shrug off their comments and because the focus should not shift from resettlement and rehabilitation of the oustees."

However, Justice Anand, who wrote the majority judgement, said, "We are unhappy at the way the leaders of NBA and Roy have attempted to undermine the dignity of the court. We expected better behaviour from them."

Patkar and Roy in her book The Greater Common Good had criticised the court order allowing raising of the dam height.

The court fixed November four for further hearing on the writ petition filed by NBA seeking direction to the various state governments to implement the tribunal award on resettlement and rehabilitation of dam oustees.

Referring to the sarcastic comments made by Roy in her book about the orders of the court, Justice Anand said, "The comments made by her are prima facie a misrepresentation of the proceedings of this court."

The court emphasized that under the cover offreedom of speech and expression, no party could be allowed to misrepresent the proceedings and orders of the court and deliberately paint an absolutely wrong and incomplete picture which has a tendency to scandalise the court and bring it into disrepute or ridicule.

"Judicial process and institution cannot be permitted to be scandalised or subjected to contumacious violation in such a blatant manner in which it has been done by her," he said.

Terming that her writings had the tendency to create prejudice against the court, Justice Anand said, "Whatever may be the motive of Roy, it is quite obvious that she decided to use her literary fame by misinforming public and projecting in a totally incorrect manner...".

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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