Editors appear before Speaker, get no reprieve

Editors appear before Speaker, get no reprieve

Editors appear before Speaker, get no reprieve

The editors of two Kannada tabloids, facing imprisonment and fine for breach of privilege, appeared before Legislative Assembly Speaker K B Koliwad on Monday.

The duo, accompanied by their lawyer, sought reconsideration of a resolution adopted by the House, sentencing them to one-year imprisonment and  Rs 10,000 fine. Koliwad, after listening to the arguments, said he will “examine the issue” but set no time frame for the next course of action.

The Assembly, last month, had passed a resolution accepting recommendations of the privileges committee of the House sentencing ‘Hai Bangalore’ editor Ravi Belagere and ‘Yelahanka Voice’ editor Anil Raj. The editors had challenged the legality of the resolution in the Karnataka High Court, which  directed the duo to appear before Koliwad.

Belagere and Raj appeared before Koliwad at his chamber in Vidhana Soudha along with counsel Shankarappa a little after 3 pm. The petitioners argued that the articles did not amount to breach of privilege as they were outside the purview of the Assembly.

The two editors feared arrest but their counsel was reassured by Additional Advocate General A S Ponnanna, appearing for the speaker, that they would not be taken into custody.

Counsel Shankarappa submitted before Koliwad that the aggrieved MLAs - S R Vishwanath, B M Nagaraju and Koliwad himself (now the Speaker), against whom the articles were published, could seek remedy in the court of law and not through a legislative process as the articles were outside the purview of the legislature.

He stated that preventing a legislator from discharging his duties or preventing members from entering the legislature when the session is on, amounted to breach of privilege.

MLA Vishwanath had also filed a defamation case against Raj but there was no mention of it in the complaint to the privileges committee.

“This amounts to suppression of information from the House,” the counsel said. Shankarappa said the petitioners were ready to tender unconditional apology if the resolution was reconsidered.
Koliwad said he would “examine the issue”.

Noncommittal

Later, Koliwad reiterated to reporters that the resolution passed by the House could be withdrawn only by the legislature. Asked what next, he replied, “It is for you to presume.... law will take its own course.”

Asked if the resolution had been kept in abeyance, Koliwad replied in the negative and said, “Only the legislature can decide on that,” To a query if the one-year jail sentence would be executed, Koliwad said, “I am not the executing authority....”  

He denied that there was pressure from Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to ensure the two editors were not arrested. Soon after the appearance before the Speaker, Belagere was seen in a semi-conscious state and had to be escorted out of Vidhana Soudha in an office chair with wheels.

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