The Shillong Times (TST) editor Patricia Mukhim and publisher Shobha Chaudhuri, were held guilty of contempt of court by the Meghalaya High Court on Friday.
The court, as punishment, imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh on Mukhim and Chaudhuri each.
In its order, the court also said in case they fail to pay the amount within a week, both Mukhim and Chaudhuri would be imprisoned for six months and the newspaper ‘banned’, reports Scroll.In.
According to the report, while delivering the judgment, the bench of the high court asked the editor and publisher of the newspaper to “sit in the corner of the court room” till the court adjourned its proceedings for the day.
The order of the contempt of court came in connection with two stories published by TST in December last on a court order seeking better facilities for retired judges and their families.
One of the stories titled, “When judges judge for themselves”, had drawn parallels between the order passed by Justice SR Sen and another order passed by two former judges of the High Court in the year 2016.
The report had claimed that according to the order, Sen, who incidentally retired on Friday, wanted several provisions for retired chief justices and judges and their spouses and children.
The report had said: “Besides providing medical facilities for the spouses and children, the order stressed the need for providing protocol, guest houses, domestic help, mobile/internet charge at the rate of Rs 10,000 and mobile for Rs 80,000 for judges.”
Sen had taken offence to the stories, particularly the one with the headline ‘When judges judge for themselves’ and issued a notice to Mukhim and Chaudhuri asking them to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against the daily.
The notice, according to the report, stated it was “shocking that the publisher and editor of said newspaper without knowing the law or background of the case is making comments which is definitely derogatory to a judge who is handling the case as well as the entire judges’ community”.
Through the notice, the court also asked Mukhim and Chaudhuri to make “personal appearance” before it to explain themselves.
The notice further stated: “Media is not to dictate to the court what the court should do.”
On December 13 both Mukhim and Chaudhuri appeared before the court.
The case was subsequently placed before another bench comprising Meghalaya High Court’s chief justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Justice Sen himself.
According to the court documents, on February 1, Mukhim and Chaudhuri tendered an “unconditional apology”, but the bench in its judgment said it was a “calculated strategy so as to avoid punishment”.
The court claimed that the story with the headline ‘When judges judge for themselves’ “is not based on facts and has been published without any research only to scandalize the order of this honourable court”.
The court in its judgement said: “The caption of news report itself is malicious and contemptuous.”
Moreover, the court also took offence to the posts uploaded by Mukhim in the social media.
The judgment while referring to the veteran editor and writer’s Facebook posts said: “Mukhim took the help of social media and even gone to the extent of mocking the judicial system of this country.”
The social media posts of the editor, the court said, amounted to “insulting the learned members of the Bar”.
“We would like to ask whether the contemnor, Smti. Patricia Mukhim wants to control the judiciary as per her desire and will? If it is so, she is very much wrong,” the court said in the judgement.
As per the report, both Mukhim and Chaudhuri declined to comment, but people familiar with the case told Scroll.in that they would challenge the judgment in higher court.