Patkar dare SC to take contempt action against them
Express News Service
New Delhi, April 23: ACTIVIST Medha
Patkar and author Arundhati Roy today dared the Supreme Court to
take contempt action against them as they asserted their right to
criticise its judgment allowing the construction of the controversial
The two had been summoned alongwith advocate
Prashant Bhushan to appear today in connection with a contempt petition
accusing them of participating four months ago in a demonstration
against the judgment in front of the Supreme Court.
In their separate affidavits, Patkar, Roy
and Bhushan denied the allegations made by the petitioners, a group
of three lawyers, that they made derogatory remarks against the
court during the demonstration.
A bench comprising Justice G.B. Patanaik
and Justice U.C. Banerjee took umbrage, however, to the tenor of
the affidavits. ‘‘The charges made in the petition against them
have been denied, but the tenor of the affidavits may itself be
contemptuous,’’ it said.
Adjourning the matter to August, the court
asked additional solicitor general Altaf Ahmed to suggest by then
what course it should adopt in the proceedings.
The court indicated that if the allegations made in the petition
turn out to be baseless, the petitioners themselves may be ‘‘sent
to jail’’. But Patkar, Roy and Bhushan, the court said, may also
be punished if they are found to have committed a fresh contempt
with their affidavits.
In her affidavit, the Narmada Bachao Andolan
leader, Medha Patkar, said she would continue to help the dam-affected
‘‘raise their voices in protest against this system even if I have
to do so against the judiciary and the courts. I will continue to
do so as long as I can, even if I have to be punished for contempt
for doing that’’.
Mincing no words, Patkar said: ‘‘A judiciary
which insulates itself from criticism by using the power of contempt
is bound to become insensitive to the people that it is meant to
serve. This does not bode well for the future of our republic.’’
In an equally scathing attack, the Booker
Award winning Arundhati Roy said the admission of the contempt petition
‘‘indicates a disquieting inclination on the part of the Court to
silence criticism and muzzle dissent, to harass and intimidate those
who disagree with it. By entertaining a petition based on an FIR
that even a local police station does not see fit to act upon, the
Supreme Court is doings its own reputation and credibility considerable
Roy said that as a writer, ‘‘I have the
right to criticise any judgement of any court that I believe to
be unjust.’’ Patkar was accompanied to the court complex by scores
of ‘‘dam-affected’’ people, who even today raised slogans against
the court and its judgement, which they said, threatened to deprive
them of their homes and lands.
Police detained around 200 people, mostly
peasants and tribals from the affected areas of Maharashtra, Gujarat
and Madhya Pradesh, about 100 metres from the court premises.
Patkar was later allowed to take along
a group of eight persons, including social activist Swami Agnivesh,
inside the premises.