When editor of The Shillong Times, Patricia Mukhim, on Thursday, 13 December, appeared before Justice SR Sen who had sent a contempt notice to the leading daily in Meghalaya for publishing an article about a court order seeking perks and facilities for retired judges and their families, she was asked, “What is your qualification, ma’am, to write about judges?”
“When publisher Shoba Chaudhuri and I appeared before the court, Justice SR Sen did not hear anything that we had to say. Instead, he asked me what my qualifications were. When I said I have completed Bachelors in Arts( B.A) and Bachelors in Education (B.Ed), he said I am not qualified to be an editor.”Patricia Mukhim to The Quint
In her article titled ‘When judges judge for themselves’, published earlier this week, Mukhim alleged that Justice Sen, who is retiring in March, wanted several provisions for retired chief justices and judges and their spouses and children from the state government, including guest houses, domestic help, mobile and internet expenses.
The article also said that Justice Sen’s order is a reminiscent of an order of two judges – Chief Justice Umanath Singh and TNK Singh – demanding Z-category and Y-category security respectively.
Both Mukhim and Chaudhuri were issued a show cause notice by Justice Sen on Wednesday, 12 December, seeking explanation as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against the newspaper for publishing the article.
He also asserted that “media is not to dictate to the court what the court should do”. Referring to the font of the headline, Sen also noted, “What was so important that it is highlighted in pink colour?”
“It is really shocking that the publisher and editor of the said newspaper without knowing the law or background of the case are making comments which are definitely derogatory to a judge who is handling the case as well as the entire fraternity of the judges,” Justice Sen said, adding that the media had no business to comment on a matter pending in court.
While speaking to The Quint, Mukhim said:
“We have done nothing wrong. Our duty is to inform the public. Money for the judges’ retirement perks will go out from the common taxpayers’ accounts. We have to hold every public institution accountable.”
She also noted that provisions for perks and facilities for retired judges and their families should be taken up by registrar general of Meghalaya High Court with the state government of Meghalaya.
The Editors Guild of India, on Sunday, 16 December, said contempt notices such as these “are regrettable and will be seen as judicial intimidation of the media.”