March 14, 2019:
On Wednesday, the Press Council of India (PCI) said the Meghalaya HC’s order from last week in the contempt case against The Shillong Times’ editor and publisher is ‘vulnerable on many counts’ and will have an adverse impact on the freedom of press.
PCI Chairman Justice C.K. Prasad said the media watchdog will file an application for impleadment (to become party to the case) in The Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim’s appeal against the order.
‘With profound respect in my opinion, the judgment is vulnerable on many counts. The Hon’ble Judge ought to have kept in mind that by making unnecessary observations, he thrust the office of the judge in front of the firing line,’ Prasad said in a statement.
‘The primary duty of the council is to preserve the freedom of the Press and the Conviction of an editor will surely have an adverse impact on their freedom,’ he said.
On 8 March, the High Court convicted Mukhim and The Shillong Times publisher Shobha Chaudhuri for contempt and imposed a fine of ₹2 lakh each on both.
The Court also said the two would be imprisoned for 6 months and the daily banned if they fail to pay the amount within a week.
The contempt order came after the news daily published 2 stories in Dec 2018 about a Court order on benefits for retired Judges and their families — one of them was headlined ‘When judges judge for themselves’.
Editors Guild of India too had condemned the order saying it is ‘intimidatory’ and undermines the freedom of press.
‘It is ironical that the judiciary which should uphold press freedom has instead issued an order that militates against freedom of expression,’ the Guild said on 11 March.