New Delhi, Nov. 10: The Supreme Court today stayed the arrest warrants issued by the Tamil Nadu Speaker against six senior journalists of The Hindu and DMK mouthpiece Murasoli for breach of privilege.
The order came after the counsel for the petitioners contended that the privilege enjoyed by a legislator was limited to speech and action inside the House. “This is the shield and sword concept,” former solicitor general Harish Salve, who appeared for The Hindu journalists, said.
He said the right of privilege was a shield to protect a legislator and not a sword to act against a publication commenting on a speech.
The Hindu journalists were indicted because of an editorial that had appeared in the paper in April. The article, titled Rising Intolerance, was on House proceedings. Murasoli had republished it in Tamil.
Justices Y.K. Sabharwal and S.B. Sinha issued notices to the Speaker, the Assembly secretary, the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka (where a police team from Chennai had gone) and attorney-general Soli J. Sorabjee for assisting the court. Hearings will commence after three weeks.
The court said the stay order should be faxed “forthwith” to the Tamil Nadu police chief so that the journalists are not arrested.
Flashes of humour marked proceedings when Salve cited the example of a British daily that published pictures of five English judges “upside down” with the caption “five old fools”.
“The judges, instead of issuing contempt notices, said that ‘old is a matter of fact as we are all old now’, and ‘fool is a matter of opinion of the publication concerned’,” Salve told the court amid laughter from the judges. “See the attitude, my lords...” he said, “and now see the same here”.