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T.N. Assembly Secretary defends action against journalists

By J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI NOV. 21. The Tamil Nadu Assembly Secretary today filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court defending the resolution passed by the House on November 7 sentencing the Editor of The Hindu, N. Ravi, and four others as well as the Editor of the Tamil newspaper, Murasoli, for breach of privilege of the House.

In response to the notice sent by the apex court on November 8 in the two writ petitions filed by Mr. Ravi and others challenging the resolution, V. Rajaraman, Secretary of the Assembly, submitted that the "actions and decisions of the House and the Speaker are well within their jurisdiction and cannot be questioned on any grounds whatsoever."

(The apex court, while issuing notice to the Speaker, the Assembly Secretary and others, had stayed the execution of the warrants issued by the Speaker pursuant to the resolution for arresting the six journalists). The case comes up for further hearing on December 8.

The reply stated that the publication of an editorial by The Hindu on April 25 imputing motives to the action of the Speaker and the Privileges Committee "amounts to gross act of contempt of the House as a whole and gross act of breach of privilege of the House as a whole. Further, freedom of press would not apply when reports containing incorrect and false accusations amounting to breach of privilege are published."

The affidavit countered the allegation that the decision of the Privileges Committee and the resolution of the House was stage managed by the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa. It said: "the petitioners are trying to convert an individual misconduct into a political issue. This malafide exercise is continuing even when this court is seized of the matter."

Seeking dismissal of the petitions, the affidavit said that Article 212 of the Constitution provided that the validity of any proceedings in the Legislature of a State shall not be called into question or such a proceeding be subject to the jurisdiction of any court.

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