Eminent media personalities, journalists' organisations and cultural activists criticised the Delhi High Court decision to sentence four journalists of
to four months imprisonment for publishing stories against former Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal. The media fraternity called for clear guidelines to define the law for contempt of court, under which these journalists have been held guilty.
Veteran journalist and former diplomat Kuldeep Nayyar said journalists were being treated unfairly under the law in its present form. "The judgment is too harsh. There has to be some codification on what amounts to contempt of court. Anything said anywhere about judges is treated as contempt, since they are the ones who decide everything. It is unfair to others, especially for journalists," he said.
Outlook editor Vinod Mehta said he stood by the journalists as the case concerned the entire journalistic fraternity. "This judgment has not enhanced the stature of higher judiciary. I stand with the
reporters and urge my fellow editors to support the sentenced journalists. It is not only about one paper but affects all working journalists."
The Editors Guild of India demanded a change in the law, and said truth reported without malafide should be the sole test in contempt proceedings. "If a journalist reported truthful matters, he should be judged on that basis. We have been asking for a change in the contempt law and the Guild is meeting again next month to deliberate on the issue," Guild secretary general KS Sachidananda Murthy said.
The Delhi Union of Journalists called the decision an assault on freedom of expression. "A meeting has been called on Saturday to discuss the facts of the case and a Black Day will be observed next week," a DUJ release said. Cultural organisation SAHMAT said the sentencing raised serious questions. "Doubts on several judgments given by the former CJI were also raised by eminent jurists, who had demanded a thorough probe into the allegations against him. This should be supported by all democratic minded people."