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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Six month jail to CPM leader for criticising judgment banning roadside meetings

Even as the Kerala High Court's decision on legislation allowing roadside meetings is pending, CPM state secretariat member M V Jayarajan was shown no mercy by the court on Tuesday, imposing the highest punishment possible for contempt of court for calling a high court judge, who banned roadside meetings, an idiot (sumbhan) in Malayalam. The division bench of Justice V Ramkumar and Justice P Q Barkath Ali sentenced Jayarajan to six months of simple imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 2,000, which is the maximum punishment for contempt of court allowed under Section 12 of The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

Suo moto proceedings were initiated by the high court against Jayarajan after he ridiculed the single bench order banning roadside meetings, at a public meeting held in Kannur on July 1 last year. Immediately after the verdict, Jayarajan's advocate pleaded for a suspension of sentence to appeal to the Supreme Court, but was turned down by the bench. According to the Criminal Procedure Code, courts have the discretion over suspension of sentence to facilitate appeal to a higher court if the duration of the sentence is less than three years.

Last week, a state government legislation overcoming the high court ban on roadside meetings was stayed by division bench of acting chief justice C N Ramachandran Nair and Justice P S Gopinathan citing violation of Article 19 of the Constitution, which deals with Right to Freedom, including right to move freely throughout the territory of India. Coming out of the court room after hearing the sentence, Jayarajan told media that further action depends on the procedures of the court and that he would consider appealing to the Supreme Court soon.

While Jayarajan had continued his tirade against the court as the trial was going on, he took a U-turn on Tuesday and expressed caution while talking to media. Last week, Jayarajan had said at a public meeting that the courts were haunted by the ghosts of British Raj.

While the trial of the contempt case was going on, Jayarajan had accused the court of being unfair to him. In an affidavit, Jayarajan said the court was not recording the objections raised against the bench's questions to a language expert who was presented as a witness. The court had asked the language expert whether he was afraid of Jayarajan and the CPM. This, the CPM leader said, showed that the process was unfair. "The court is not appreciating the case in a dispassionate and fair manner," Jayarajan had alleged in the affidavit.

During the deposition of the case on September 6, Jayarajan had told the court that the speech being held in contempt was intended against the judge who banned roadside meetings and was not meant to dishonour the court system as a whole. "My belief about the law and order system was damaged by the judgment about roadside meetings. That is the reason why I criticised the judgment. Judiciary should protect the interests of the people. I believe this judgment is one that cannot be implemented. The judgment opposes people's right to strike," the CPM leader had told the court during the deposition.

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