Press Release: 6th March, 2002- Urgent
Arundhati Roy’s Judgement
Arundhati Roy Sentenced to One Days’ Imprisonment and Fine
Court Says Guilty of Scandalizing Authority With Malafide Intentions
Outpouring of Support from all Over
The Supreme Court today found writer Arundhati Roy guilty of criminal contempt of court by “scandalizing its authority with malafide intentions”, punishable under section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act.
Jst.G.B.Pattnaik and R.P.Sethi sentenced her to simple imprisonment for one day and to pay a fine of Rs.2000/-. In case of default in the payment of fine, “the respondent shall undergo simple imprisonment for three months”.
Reacting to the judgement Arundhati Roy said, “I stand by what I said.… the judgment only confirms what I said in my affidavit. It is a sad realization for me because I feel the Supreme Court of India is an important institution”. Shortly after the verdict she was whisked away to Tihar jail to begin serving the sentence.
Prashant Bhushan, human rights activist and lawyer said, “"This is a very important setback to the freedom of the common citizen to discuss matters of enormous public significance, even as the Courts are intervening in such issues day in and day out".
Support and Solidarity
A large and colourful gathering of citizens of Delhi outside the main gate of the Supreme Court of India was joined by several hundred people from the Narmada Valley, “To support free speech; for judicial accountability; in solidarity with Arundhati Roy”.
In a break with the previous hearings, when visitors were prevented from being witness to the proceedings Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Vandana Shiva, Ecologist, Praful Bidwai, Columnist, and Nikhil, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghathan, were also present when the judgement was read.
A large number of social and human rights activists including Siddharaj Dadda, Kavitha Shrivastav, Gautam Navlakha, Dhunu Roy, Shamsul Islam, writer Rajendra Yadav, Educationists Anil Sadgopal, Yash Pal, Journalist Tarun Tejpal and Academic B.K.Roy Burman and Trade Union representatives like Vikas of IFTU, P.K.Shahi of AIFTU and Aparna, Secretary, Delhi CPIML were also present in solidarity.
In a message Thomas Kochery, World Forum of Fisher People and Harekrishna Debnath, National Alliance of People’s Movements, said, “We strongly condemn this incarceration ….the right of free speech is a sacred right”. Reports have also come in of demonstrations in front of the Kerala High Court, Cochin, and at Kottayam, Pattanamthitta and Palghat.
Meanwhile, international messages of solidarity were pouring in from different countries. Over three hundred members of the Italian Parliament have written to the President of India conveying their support and saying that "the Italian people who read and support Arundhati Roy….. appreciate the nobility of the political, moral and literary commitment".
Noted intellectual, thinker and writer Noam Chomsky has conveyed his full support to Arundhati Roy “and great admiration for her courage”. In a message from the United States, a group of well known writers and film personalities have written to the President, K.R.Narayanan, calling this case, “a vital test for India”, and urging it to reject the charges against Ms.Roy. The group included writers Toni Morrison, William Styron, Harold Pinter, actors Susan Sarandon, Robert Redford, Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson and film directors Woody Allen, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jonathan Demme, Ismail Merchant and Arthur Penn.
Statement by Arundhati Roy
Soon after the verdict was announced Arundhati Roy was whisked away without the opportunity of addressing a very large number of National and International press and media. In a handwritten note written after the judgement she 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 their judgements. The quality of this judgement will be assessed by the people of the country. The message is clear. Any citizen who dares to criticise the court does so at his or her peril. The judgement only confirms what I said in my affidavit. It is a sad realization for me, because I feel the Supreme Court of India is an important institution and the citizens of India have high expectations from it”.
Protest Outside Supreme Court
Following this, several hundred people courted arrest outside the Supreme Court to express their dissatisfaction with the verdict and to show their solidarity with the contents of the affidavit found to be contemptuous by the Court. At the Parliament Street police station, where they were taken, the people demanded to be taken to Tihar jail alongwith Arundhati Roy. Later a peaceful march was taken along the Parliament Street, and from late afternoon more than 300 people began a dharna outside the Gate No.3, Jail No.6 of Tihar jail.
Extracts from the Judgement
Pp.75-76: “On the basis of the record, the position of law our findings on various pleas raised and the conduct of the respondent, we have no doubt in our mind that the respondent has committed the criminal contempt of this Court by scandalizing its authority with malafide intentions. The respondent is, therefore, held guilty for the contempt of court punishable under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act.
“As the respondent has not shown any repentance or regret or remorse, no lenient view should be taken in the matter. However, showing the magnanimity of law by keeping in mind that the respondent is a woman, and hoping that better sense and wisdom shall dawn upon the respondent 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.2000/-.
“While convicting the respondent for the contempt of the Court, we sentence her to simple imprisonment for one day and to pay a fine of Rs.2000/-. In case of default in the payment of fine, the respondent shall undergo simple imprisonment for three months.” (Emphasis added)
Pp.67-68: “In the instant case the respondent has not claimed to be possessing any special knowledge of law and the working of the institution of judiciary. She has only claimed to be a writer of repute. ….. She has not claimed to have made any study regarding the working of this Court or judiciary in the country and claims to have made the offending imputations in her proclaimed right of freedom of speech and expression as a writer.”
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