Sister Abhaya Murder – Kerala Kaumudi apologises, But stands by Article

published on February 19, 2009

Daily apologises to HC, but stands by article

PNS | Kochi

management of Kerala Kaumudi, Malayalam daily on Thursday tendered an
unconditional apology in the Kerala High Court in response to a notice
of contempt of court, allegedly committed through an editorial in the
paper on December 18, 2008. However, the paper’s management did not
agree to the accusation of contempt of court.

The High Court had
issued contempt notices on February 4 to the chief editor and three
others in Kerala Kaumudi for publishing an editorial on the conduct of
a judge while hearing the Sr Abhaya murder case. The notices were
issued in the second suo motu contempt proceedings initiated by the
court as per recommendations of the full bench, which had on January 28
decided to initiate action against the newspaper.

The editorial
had made some comments on Justice K Hema while she was hearing bail
pleas of three accused in the case. The references against Justices
Hema and Acting Chief Justice JB Koshy had come in the editorial after
the latter had rejected a CBI petition seeking transfer of the hearing
on the bail petitions from Justice Hema’s bench to some other bench.

division bench, comprising Justices K Balakrishnan Nair and K Surendra
Mohan, ordered notices to chief editor MS Mani, editor MS
Madhusoodanan, managing editor Deepu Ravi and printer and publisher MS
Ravi. The paper, in its apology said the editorial was written on the
basis of facts and keeping in mind the sense of social responsibility.

Kerala Kaumudi management said in its apology that the editorial was
published taking into consideration the public interest in the Sr
Abhaya case and the all-round anxieties about the future of
investigations in the case.

It said that even the CBI had
informed the Acting Chief Justice about possible sabotage of the
investigations. This was the background of the editorial and there was
no intention to defame or degrade the Judiciary. The case would now be
taken up on February 3.

At the same time, editor Madhusoodanan
filed a separate affidavit in the High Court saying he was in no way
responsible for the publication of the editorial in the paper.

a suo moto case was dropped on the ground that the proceedings adopted
for placing the matter for preliminary hearing are ultra vires of
Section 15 of the Contempt of Court Act. According to Section 15 of the
Contempt of Court Act, suo motu proceedings could be taken only by the
High Court. As per Article 211 of the Constitution, High Court
consisted of Chief Justice and all other judges.

It was after
this that the bench resumed the proceedings after getting the full
consensus of the court. The references against Justice K Hema, who had
heard the bail pleas of the accused in the Sr Abhaya murder case, and
Justice Koshi had appeared in the editorial, titled Neethidevathayude
Moodappetta Kanukalude Sukham, after the latter rejected a CBI petition
seeking transfer of the hearing on the bail petitions in the Sr Abhaya
murder case from the woman judge’s bench to some other.

General CP Sudhakara Prasad had on February 4 reiterated his earlier
position that it would be better if the court did not proceed with the
case. When his opinion was sought earlier, he had said that the best
thing for courts to do was to approach such things with dignity and

Justice Hema had kicked up a controversy over the
limits of the power of a bail judge by making statements about the CBI
investigation into the case while hearing the pleas and in the bail

This, and the reactions to it from another judge from
the same court, had invited criticism from the entire legal fraternity
and a large section of people in Kerala. Even Chief Justice of India KG
Balakrishnan said it was not proper for a bail judge to make comments
about matters outside his /her case’s periphery, in an obvious but
indirect reference to Justice Hema’s observations in the bail order.

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