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Defamation Row: Editors Seek Review of Arrest Order by Karnataka Assembly

In round three of the Legislature Vs media debate, the two editors, whose arrest had been ordered by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, have appealed to Assembly Speaker K B Koliwad to review the order.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:July 3, 2017, 10:41 PM IST
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Defamation Row: Editors Seek Review of Arrest Order by Karnataka Assembly
Two editors, whose arrest had been ordered by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, have appealed to Assembly Speaker K B Koliwad to review the order.
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Bengaluru: In round three of the Legislature Vs media debate, the two editors, whose arrest had been ordered by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, have appealed to Assembly Speaker K B Koliwad to review the order.

The editors, who have evaded arrested over the last ten days, appeared before the Speaker to file their petition on Monday. This came after the government gave an undertaking to the High Court last week that they would not be arrested if they personally appeared and filed their review petitions.

The case relates to the Assembly resolution on June 21, the last day of the monsoon session, where the MLAs resolved to punish the two journalists with one year's jail term and Rs 10,000 as fines, for publishing defamatory articles against three MLAs – BJP MLA S R Vishwanath, Congress MLA B M Nagaraj and the Speaker K B Koliwad (also a Congress MLA) himself. They were accused of 'breaching the privilege' of these MLAs with their articles in 'Yelahanka Voice' and 'Hi Bangalore'.

Their lawyer, S Shankarappa, told the Speaker that the breach of privilege law applies against MLAs within the House or premises of the Legislature – that acts committed outside would not come under this law.


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Anil Raj (left), editor and publisher of Yelahanka Voice, is seen wearing black denim and a red t-shirt. (Photo: CNN-News18)

"Here in the case of Ravi Belagere (editor of Hi Bangalore) and Anil Raj (editor of Yelahanka Voice), the act wasn't committed within the premises of the Assembly, nor it is about anything that happened in the Assembly, nor has any MLA been prevented from attending any event of the Assembly," Shankarappa told the Speaker.

This, however, was not accepted by the Speaker, who brushed it off saying privilege applies to offences committed outside the House too.

Shankarappa told reporters that the Assembly had also not considered the unconditional apology tendered by one editor – Raj. Nor the fact that the MLA who had complained against him had filed a civil suit regarding the same in a court.

"We have requested to review the previous resolution and provide me an opportunity to place our plea/ grievance. It is important to hear those charged before they are sentenced," he told newspersons, adding that the order of the Assembly was passed without giving the editors a hearing.

This again was refuted by the Speaker, who said summons had been issued many times to editors, and they had refused to heed it – whatever representations they wished to make, they should have made before the Privileges Committee when notices were served.

"They have given me a petition, argued before me. I have received it, I will decide on it based on my conscience and knowledge of rules," Koliwad told reporters after the meeting.

The facts of the case were not for him to judge. He was merely executing a decision of the House, so he would have to refer it back to the Assembly at the next session before the review plea is decided on, Koliwad said.

"What is to consider here? This petition, they have submitted, but I have no powers to consider or review. The power to review or modify or cancel or accept this plea rests only with the House,” he said.

If it has to be placed before the Assembly, the next regular session will be held in November. However, a special session could be convened before that if need be.
| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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