Chennai, Nov. 12: As V. Jayanth, The Hindu’s associate editor and bureau chief, returned to work today, its editor-in-chief . Ram said: “It is time to return to business.”
Jayanth and four other senior journalists of the paper were sentenced to imprisonment for 15 days by the Tamil Nadu Assembly last week because of an editorial that had appeared in April. The article, titled Rising Intolerance, was on House proceedings.
What eased the standoff was chief minister Jayalalithaa’s assurance to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani after midnight yesterday that the Supreme Court’s stay on the arrest warrants “are being fully complied with and implemented by the state police” and that “there is absolutely no threat to The Hindu”.
Ram had written to Advani yesterday, seeking central security for The Hindu head office here and at the residences of some of its employees amid continuing “police intimidation”.
Introducing Jayanth at a news conference here, the editor-in-chief of The Hindu congratulated Jayalalithaa for her statement and termed it a “new and very positive development”. Deciding to withdraw its request for central security forces, Ram said: “We are writing to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani accordingly.”
Ram said the chief minister had “implicitly or explicitly” accepted the position that the Indian Constitution was “supreme” and that the apex court’s power of judicial review (in matters of legislative privilege) shall prevail.
“This is perhaps the first time that the chief minister of a state, where the legislative Assembly has punished anyone for breach of privilege, has publicly acknowledged the supremacy of the Constitution and the Supreme Court as the final interpreter and adjudicator of legislative privileges, when they come into conflict with constitutional provisions, especially fundamental rights,” Ram said.
Ram, however, refused comment when asked if The Hindu’s request for central security and Advani’s immediate action had prompted Jayalalithaa’s assurance.
Stressing on the “positive outcome” of the situation, he said: “We want to normalise the relations between the press — The Hindu in particular — and the state police and the state government.”
Asked if the sentenced journalists should have made themselves available for arrest, Ram said there was no “absolute rule” in such situations. The Hindu editor-in-chief said he was proud of Jayanth and the four other journalists of the newspaper “for keeping their personal liberty in the face an illegal, unconstitutional offensive”.
However, asked about Nakkeeran editor R.R. Gopal, who has been arrested under the anti-terror law, Ram said the “case is unjust”. “In a recent editorial, we have also said that for the sake of liberty, Pota itself must go,” he said.
Sharing his feelings, Jayanth said he wished to first express his “profound gratitude” to the all-round support from his office, the media throughout the country and even from Pakistan.
“I was not a fugitive in law. I was fighting for the freedom of the press and for The Hindu. I was in the care of my friends, my extended family,” Jayanth said.