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The Indian Express : National Network
  The Indian Express


Tuesday, October 30, 2001  

SC dismisses Roy plea, charges stay


NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 29: The Supreme Court today, for the second time, refused to drop contempt proceedings against author-activist Arundhati Roy in connection with the Narmada controversy. The first time the court declined Roy’s request was on August 28, the day it dropped contempt proceedings against NBA leader Medha Patkar and advocate Prashant Bhushan. The court singled out Roy because it felt that she had in her affidavit ‘‘imputed motives’’ to judges.

Roy has since filed another affidavit, which was considered today by a bench comprising Justice G.B. Pattanaik and Justice Ruma Pal. Expressing dissatisfaction with it, the court maintained that the case against Roy needed to be heard in detail. It fixed the next hearing in the second week of January. While exempting her from personal appearance, the court rejected the plea of her counsel, Shanti Bhushan, to refer the matter to a five-judge Constitution bench in view of the issues involving freedom of speech and expression.

The court also rejected the intervention application of 14 eminent persons including Rabi Ray, Bipin Chandra and Vijay Tendulkar. ‘‘We do not need quantity to decide the matter,’’ the bench said, adding: ‘‘In a contempt matter the lis (dispute) is between the contemnor and the court.’’ Seeking a reprieve, Roy was philosophical in her nine-page reply to the court’s notice of August 28. She said: ‘‘The process of the trial and all that it entails, is as much, if not more of a punishment than the sentence itself. If the court sentences a writer to a short spell in prison for the alleged ‘crime’ of stating a reasonable and honest impression, her mind can float through the bars to freedom.’’

‘‘But to yoke her to this ‘cause’ for long enough – these endless meetings with lawyers, this drafting and redrafting of affidavits, enforced court appearances that make her feel like a criminal, this fearful study of law books before writing a single line, the apprehension that each new piece of writing will invite more litigation – and perhaps a writer will gradually lose ability, the spontaneity, and perhaps even the will to write at all,” she said. ‘‘In my case, I realise this will come as a relief to many and few will mourn the loss. However, I will mourn the loss of my writing self.’’ Coming to her earlier affidavit of which the court found contemptuous, Roy said there was a complete misunderstanding of her affidavit. She had neither attributed any improper motive nor attempted to scandalise or lower the dignity of the court, she said.

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© 2001: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. All rights reserved throughout the world.