The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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When in the dock, blame the media

Calcutta, Feb. 11: Left Front chairman Biman Bose today filed his reply to the contempt suit that charged him with making derogatory comments against Justice Amitava Lala’s rein-rally ruling, apologising for “any unintentional disrespect” he might have shown but maintaining that it was the media which “distorted and altered” what he said.

Apology and the refusal to buckle under the pressure of a contempt suit blended together as Bose sought to turn the tables on his opponents — and the media — by blaming them for lowering the judiciary’s “majesty and dignity”.

Bose’s comments, reported in the media in the first week of October 2003, opposed the order that banished rallies from weekday Calcutta. Two advocates — Kallol Guha Thakurta and Idris Ali — filed a suit of contempt against the CPM leader.

A bench presided over by Justice A.K. Ganguly called Bose to court 10 weeks ago and gave him time to reply.

Bose’s reply made two attempts. An effort was made to convince the court that he did not say anything unseemly; instead, the media distorted his statement.

Simultaneously, Bose refused to be cowed, insisting that his opposition to Justice Lala’s order was grounded in strong knowledge of the “city’s traditions” and belief — backed by law — that the judge had overstepped his brief.

The affidavit stated that it was true that he had addressed a media conference at the CPM’s headquarters on October 4 last year and that he said he “would not be inclined to obey the order”. It was also true that he felt Justice Lala “seemed to be unaware of the city’s long tradition of protests”.

But he had not raised the “Lala, Bangla chhere pala (Justice Lala, leave Bengal)” slogan. He was only “apprehending” that rallyists themselves might refuse to abide by the ruling and ask the “hon’ble judge (to)… leave the place”…and “go back”.

“(Bose) had expressed his helplessness when he said that if such a slogan is raised… he would not know what to do,” the affidavit said. It was with a “deep sense of anxiety” that he “apprehended a public outburst”.

The next day, however, his comments were “surprisingly distorted”. It was made out as if he had decided to “take on the judiciary” when the fact was that the reports were “recklessly distorted, speculative, mala fide, motivated, false and consisted of blatant lies” and made with a clear intent to “harass him”.

Special mention was made of a report in The Telegraph that quoted several legal luminaries on the punishment Bose could face if it was proved that he had committed contempt of court. Even before the suit was filed, he was “charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the paper”, the affidavit said.

Based on opinions of legal experts, The Telegraph had said that at best Bose would be fined, and at worst jailed if he was convicted of contempt of court.

Besides, the contempt suit — like Justice Lala’s order of contempt — was “bad in law”, the affidavit said. The advocate-general’s consent, compulsory for a third-party contempt suit, was not taken, it argued.

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