contempt: Supreme Court writes her a prison sentence
Choice: pay Rs 2,000 or 3 more months
NEW DELHI, MARCH 6: The Supreme Court today imprisoned
Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy for her remarks against
the judiciary in two consecutive affidavits filed last year
in response to contempt notices.
Though the court sentenced her to a ‘‘symbolic’’ simple imprisonment
of one day, Roy may spend three months in Tihar Jail if she
chooses not to pay a fine of Rs 2,000.
Roy was hauled up earlier in 1999 in the context of the same
Narmada controversy, a bench headed by the then Chief Justice,
A S Anand, let her off with a censure. The present Chief Justice,
S P Bharucha, who was a member of the bench, said in that
case that ‘‘the court’s shoulders are broad enough to shrug
off’’ her comments.
she was taken away by the police in the morning, a defiant
Roy told the press in the court premises that she had not
made up her mind on whether to pay the fine or not.
bench comprising Justice G B Pattanaik and Justice R P Sethi
said as ‘‘Roy has not shown any repentance or regret or remorse,
no lenient view should be taken in the matter.’’ Accordingly,
while awarding a sentence of one-day imprisonment and fine
of Rs 2,000, the court said that if she did not pay the fine,
she would have to undergo imprisonment for a further period
of three months.
wanted to become a champion to the cause of the writers by
asserting that persons like her can challenge anything they
desire and accuse any person or institution without any circumspection,
limitation or restraint,’’ the bench said, referring to the
affidavits filed by Roy to counter a petition which accused
her of committing contempt in connection with the Narmada
to her conviction, Roy said: ‘‘I stand by what I said. And
I am prepared to suffer the consequences. The dignity of the
court will be upheld by the quality of its judgments...The
quality of this judgment will be assessed by the people of
this country. The message is clear. Any citizen who dares
to criticize the court does so at his or her own peril.’’
conviction has its genesis in a demonstration in front of
the Supreme Court premises in December 2000 by activists of
the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) to protest the judgment permitting
further construction of the Narmada project.
contempt petition filed by some lawyers named Roy as a respondent
along with NBA leader Medha Patkar and advocate Prashant Bhushan.
their affidavits, the court discharged all three of them in
September 2001 from the contempt petitition related to the
demonstration. But the court issued a fresh contempt notice
to Roy suo motu taking exception to three paragraphs in her
affidavit attacking the judiciary. In her subsequent affidavit,
Roy was found to have compounded her offence by accusing the
court of trying to erode the freedom of the press.
her attitude to the court, Justice Sethi, who delivered the
judgment, said: ‘‘Such an attitude shows her persistent and
consistent attempt to malign the institution of the judiciary
found to be the most important pillar of the Indian democratic
he felt that no lenient view should be taken in the matter,
Sethi said: ‘‘However, showing magnanimity of law by keeping
in mind that the respondent is a woman, and hoping that better
sense and wisdom shall dawn upon her in the future to serve
the cause of art and literature by her creative skill and
imagination, we feel that the ends of justice would be met
if she is sentenced to symbolic imprisonment besides paying
a fine of Rs 2,000.’’ Roy is the first woman to be ever punished
for contempt by the apex court.
was made to stand in the court room as the judgment was delivered
amid tight security and the court premises was teeming with
NBA activists who raised slogans demanding justice.