Narmada Samachar: 8 March 2002


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Arundhati Roy SC contempt case

Statement by Arundhati Roy ;
- March 7 2002

   I stand by what I have said in my Affidavit and I have served the
   sentence which the Supreme Court imposed on me. Anybody who thinks
   that the punishment for my supposed 'crime' was a symbolic one day
   in prison and a fine of two thousand rupees, is wrong. The punishment
   began over a year ago when notice was issued to me to appear personally
   in Court over a ludicrous charge which the Supreme Court itself held
   should never have been entertained. In India, everybody knows that as
   far as the legal system is concerned, the process is part of the punishment.
   I spent a night in prison, trying to decide whether to pay the fine or
   serve out a 3-month sentence instead. Paying the fine does not in any way
   mean that I have apologized or accepted the judgement. I decided that
   paying the fine was the correct thing to do, because I have made the
   point I was trying to make. To take it further would be to make myself
   into a martyr for a cause that is not mine alone. It is for India's free
   Press to fight to patrol the boundaries of its freedom which the law of
   Contempt, as it stands today, severely restricts and threatens. I hope
   that battle will be joined. If not, in the course of this last year,
   I would have fought only for my own dignity, for my own right as an
   Indian citizen to look the Supreme Court of India in the eye and say,
   "I insist on the right to comment on the Court and to disagree with it."
   That would be considerably less than what I hope this fight is all about.
   It's not perfect, but it'll have to do. 

Arundhati Roy Sentenced to One Day's Imprisonment and Fine Court Says Guilty of Scandalizing Authority With Malafide Intentions Outpouring of Support from all Over ;
Free Speech Campaign Press Release - March 6 2002

Arundhati Roy is a thrilling political icon who represents the coming of age of feminism ;
The Guardian - March 7

   When Arundhati Roy woke up at 5.30am this morning in Tihar prison,
   New Delhi, it must have struck her that reality was proving stranger
   than any fiction. Over the past week terrible communal violence in India
   has claimed hundreds of lives while the forces of law and order stood by.
   This has now been juxtaposed with the spectacle of a diminutive, softly
   spoken novelist being sent to one of the country's most notorious prisons
   to uphold what the supreme court called the "glory of the law" because
   she dared to criticise it. Images of what constitutes the law in modern
   India absurdly collide. 
The conviction of Arundhati Roy ;
The Hindu [editorial] - March 7 2002

THERE IS SOMETHING terribly amiss about a law and a legal
 environment which imposes unreasonable restrictions on the freedom of
 speech and punishes people for nothing more than speaking their mind.
 The conviction of Arundhati Roy by the Supreme Court for criminal
 contempt is an unfortunate and disturbing development and should
 worry all those who believe that the law of criminal contempt, an
 extraordinary legal provision which vests extraordinary powers with the
 courts, should be used only in the most sparing and fastidious manner.
 The principal objective of The Contempt of Court Act, 1971, is to protect
 the authority and dignity of the court. The provisions of the Act are not
 intended to suppress criticism (even if expressed trenchantly) of court
 judgments, discourage frank and free expression about the state of the
 judicial system or, as in the case here, to bring `errant' writers to book. 

NBA activists court arrest ;
The Hindu - March 6 2002

It was for their sake that the Booker Prize winner, Arundhati Roy, criticised 
the Supreme Court order in a contempt case against her. And so when it came to 
``Judgment Day'' today, Narmada Bachao Andolan activists returned the favour by
courting arrest in protest against the sentence passed on her by the court. 
More information on the contempt case ;