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The Indian Express : National Network


Friday, August 3, 2001

Patkar, Roy ‘dare’ SC to arrest them

Supreme Court bench resents ‘sermon’, reserves order


NEW DELHI, AUGUST 2: Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar and Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy today asked the Supreme Court to proceed against them if their remarks against it were found to be ‘‘contemptuous’’.

Arundhati Roy coming out of Supreme Court. Express Photo

They took this position in response to the court’s observation in the earlier hearing in April that the ‘‘tenor’’ of the affidavits filed by them on contempt notices might itself be contemptuous.

Patkar, Roy and advocate Prashant Bhushan had been issued notices on a contempt petition filed by three lawyers, alleging they had made derogatory remarks against the Supreme Court and its judges while holding a dharna in front of it in December last year to protest its judgment in the Narmada case.

A bench, comprising Justice G.B. Pattanaik and Justice Ruma Pal, today reserved orders on the contempt petition which the court took up after it had been cleared, according to prescribed procedure, by Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee. Appearing for Patkar, senior advocate Shanti Bhushan attacked the ‘‘shoddily drafted’’ petition which alleged that during the dharna the NBA leader threatened the petitioners saying ‘‘saale ko jaan se maar do (kill him).’’ Shanti Bhushan contended that there was a perception among people that ‘‘the courts were far too removed from the reality and were using the contempt powers against those who criticise judgements.’’ When the court pointedly asked about the ‘‘derogatory remarks’’ made in Patkar’s affidavit, the counsel said: ‘‘If this is contempt, then send her to jail.”

Roy, who argued for herself, said: ‘‘I find the issuance of the notice insulting to me. I stand by my affidavit. If you (the court) think it is contemptuous, please proceed against me.’’ That was all she said in her defence against the petition which alleged that she ‘‘commanded the crow (sic) that the Supreme Court of India is the thief and all these are this (sic) touts.’’

In her affidavit, Roy said: ‘‘The lies, the looseness, the ludicrousness of the charges display more contempt for the apex court than any of the offences allegedly committed by Prashant Bhushan, Medha Patkar and myself.’’ The court told Roy that nobody disputed her acclaimed writings and her achievements in the field of literature. ‘‘But that does not mean you can impute motives,’’ the bench said, adding that ‘‘if you feel that we have a personal animus against you, you are wrong. We are here to administer the rule of law.’’

While reserving its orders, the bench indicated that it had the following options in the case:

  • If no material was found against the respondents, the notices against them may be quashed
  • But if it was of the view that an inquiry was needed to establish facts, the bench may order so.
  • Besides, if the court feels that the affidavits filed by the respondents were prima facie contemptuous, it may issue fresh notices to them.
  • If the court finds the allegations made by the petitioner-advocates to be false, it may send them to jail.
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