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Arundhati Roy Fined, Sent to Jail for a Day
6 mars 2002, 19:35  |   NYHETER  

Arundhati Roy, won the Booker Prize in 1997, was also fined RS 2,000 by the Supreme Court. If she does not pay the fine, she would have to spend three months in prison, the court said.

“I stand by what I said,” Arundhati Roy commented as she was taken to Tihar Jail to serve her one-day sentence. “I am prepared to suffer the consequences. The dignity of the court will be upheld by the quality of their judgment. The message is clear,” she added. “Any citizen who dares to criticize the court does so at his or her peril.”

The author said she would decide on Thursday whether she will pay the fine or serve an additional three months, and lawyer said the court decision will be challenged.

A two-judge bench found her guilty of committing criminal contempt of the Supreme Court by “scandalizing it and lowering its dignity through her statements.”

Roy had been part of a crowd that shouted slogans against the Supreme Court outside the court building in October 2000 after it approved the construction of the Narmada Dam, a project she had opposed because she felt it would adversely affect small farmers and villagers.

Roy donated $35,000 of the Booker Prize money to the campaign against the dam.

When opposing attorneys in the Narmada case accused her of contempt of court, she filed an affidavit suggesting she should not have to appear and questioned the court’s decision to consider the case. She said it “creates a disturbing impression that there is an inclination on the part of the court to silence criticism and muzzle dissent.”

Although the contempt of court charges against her in the original case were dismissed, the Supreme Court itself accused her of contempt for the comments in her affidavit, and convicted her on Wednesday.

Justice R P Sethi said in his ruling that freedom of speech did not give anyone license to scandalize the court or lower its dignity.

“The judgment only confirms what I said in my affidavit,” Roy told reporters after being sentenced. “It is a sad realization for me because I feel the Supreme Court is an important institution and the citizens of India have high expectations from it.”

Shanti Bhushan, Roy’s lawyer, said the Supreme Court ruled that “irrespective of the fact that she is a respected writer, she has to be dealt with quite sternly. However, keeping in view the fact that she is a woman, we will sentence her to a symbolic sentence of one day and a fine of RS 2,000.”

A crowd gathered across the street from the Supreme Court during the contempt hearing. About 200 protesters held a sit-in, displaying placards and banners with slogans such as “Free speech is not contempt.” Many of them were villagers from the Narmada Valley whose homes are under threat of inundation when the dam is built.

Police took the 200 to a nearby police station and would release them later, said A S Cheema, a police commissioner.