Chennai, Nov. 7: Police raided the office of the newspaper, The Hindu, after the Tamil Nadu Assembly sentenced its editor, executive editor, publisher and two journalists to 15 days’ simple imprisonment for a “gross act of contempt and breach of privilege of the House”.
An editorial the paper had written in April on proceedings in the Assembly is the provocation for the action.
The police contingent that descended on The Hindu’s Mount Road office carried an arrest warrant for only the executive editor. To arrest the other four, it had only a “piece of paper”. None was present at the time.
Editor-in-chief . Ram, who has informed the Prime Minister, said a “police raj” had been unleashed in Tamil Nadu. “We will take up the police raiding our office in the appropriate judicial fora.”
Also handed the same sentence was S. Selvam, the editor-publisher of the DMK’s Tamil mouthpiece, the Murasoli, for publishing the translated version of The Hindu editorial, titled Rising Intolerance.
In another privilege move, the House sentenced DMK legislator P. Ilamvazhuthi to 30 days’ simple imprisonment for “gross misconduct” in the last budget session. Ilamvazhuthi was arrested as he emerged from the Assembly.
Amid protests by Opposition members, Assembly leader and finance minister C. Ponnaiyan moved a resolution on handing out the punishment and it was passed by voice vote.
. Ravi, editor of The Hindu, Malini Parthasarathy (executive editor), S. Rangarajan (publisher), V. Jayanth (associate editor) and Radha Venkatesan, special correspondent, who covered the Assembly proceedings in question that day, were handed the sentence.
There were two issues of breach of privilege against the paper that were referred to the privilege committee. The first concerned a report on proceedings involving chief minister Jayalalithaa. The committee had concluded breach of privilege and recommended seven days’ simple imprisonment to The Hindu five.
Jayalalithaa quickly rose to say she was not pressing the punishment and suggested that the House withdraw the punishment, which was accepted.
The second privilege related to the editorial the paper wrote on the basis of the report of the proceedings, which allegedly cast aspersions on the functioning of the Speaker. According to the privilege committee, it was a “gross act of contempt and breach of privilege of the House”.
“We will not move for bail, but fight for the revocation of the sentence legally,” Ram said.
This is the fourth time the ruling ADMK has sentenced journalists for breach of privilege.