CJ Gopal Parajuli orders media censorshipChief Justice Gopal Parajuli on Sunday issued an interim order directing the Press Council to probe news reports published by Kantipur daily that highlighted discrepancies in his birth date mentioned by him in official documents.
Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli on Sunday issued an interim order directing the Press Council to probe news reports published by Kantipur daily that highlighted discrepancies in his birth date mentioned by him in official documents.
The Supreme Court has ordered the Press Council to investigate the matter and ensure news against CJ Parajuli are not published again. It has also asked the council to immediately investigate whether news articles published by Kantipur on various dates violate the journalists’ code of conduct or not.
CJ Parajuli has issued the order, putting the contempt of court case over the controversy surrounding his date of birth from his own bench.
Several media outlets, including Kantipur, have been reporting the controversy over the date of birth of CJ Parajuli. The SC in its order has stated that “the defendant has violated law and constitution by publishing misleading news that defamed court, justices and chief justice.” However, the order has not mentioned anything on the main issue—controversy surrounding CJ Parajuli’s date of birth.
The Supreme Court has ordered Chairman and Managing Director of Kantipur Publications Kailash Sirohiya, Director Swastika Sirohiya, Kantipur daily Editor-in-Chief Sudheer Sharma and journalist Krishna Gyawali to appear in person before the court within three days of receiving the order.
Any prior restriction on publication or broadcast of any news reports through a court order is pre-censorship. The Constitution of Nepal, in its preamble, envisions full freedom of press in the country. However, CJ Parajuli’s order attempts to restrict freedom of expression enshrined in the constitution.
Since Parliament has not drafted law on contempt of court, justices interpret it differently. In this context, CJ Parajuli is trying to impose censorship on the pretext of contempt of court.
Kantipur daily has stated that fact-based news on controversy over an individual’s date of birth cannot be related to the dignity of the court.
Legal and media experts criticised CJ Parajuli’s order. The order is against the spirit of constitutional provision that ensures freedom of press, they said, adding it implies the judiciary has become repressive.
Stating that the judiciary is trying to become authoritarian, they said “CJ Parajuli should be impeached”.
According to them, involving the Press Council in this suggests the Supreme Court order is vindictive.
The National Human Right Commission (NHRC) has said it has taken the court order seriously which violates the freedom of press. NHRC Spokesperson Mohna Ansari said, “Issuing order in a case where CJ himself has been involved, is against the principles of natural justice. It is also against the right of fair trial ensured by the international human rights law.” According to Ansari, the language of the order indicates whether good faith is applied in the decision or not. “The language of the order is aggressive. Justice should not come into aggression which will affect justice delivery,” she said.
Former Press Council Chair Harihar Birahi said the court, through this order, has done injustice. “Judiciary is a guarantor of citizens’ rights. If judiciary becomes repressive, it will trigger a grave situation in the country. It is deplorable that the court has incited the Press Council to act against one particular media,” said Birahi who is also former chairman of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ).
“If media is suppressed, it will not produce news but pamphlets,” said Birahi. Shiva Gaunle, another former FNJ chairman, said the court decision is not fair by any aspect. “Press Council is an independent body which has its own working procedure. It is not appropriate to order the council to investigate the alleged violation of code of conduct without the demand by a writ petitioner,” he said.
Senior advocate and constitutional expert Shrihari Aryal has termed the order as vengeance. “It is against the principles of natural justice to hear the case and issue an order by the same person who is involved in the row,” he said. Constitutional lawyer Surendra Bhandari said CJ Parajuli’s order has seriously breached the constitution. “The fact that Press Council, which is not part of the row, has been asked to investigate is an attack on the rule of law. CJ Parajuli misused the judiciary to skirt probing questions raised against him,” he said
Press Council Chairman Kishore Shrestha said he had not received the court order. “The council board will convene once we get the order,” he said.
Parajuli’s pride and prejudice
KATHMANDU: Political party leaders said that the Supreme Court order that states the media cannot carry news regarding the controversy surrounding Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli’s date of birth is motivated by ‘prejudice’. State organs should function without bias, they said.
“Any state organ should not work by taking prejudicial stands. They should work on the basis of rule, regulation and fact,” said CPN-UML General Secretary Ishwor Pokharel. The leaders also questioned the order issued by the CJ Parajuli’s self bench regarding the controversy surrounding his date of birth.
Nepali Congress Spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma said there should be no hindrances in news coverage. “Free press is the indicator of a democratic state. In fact, the court is the body to ensure a free press in the country. Where should one go when Chief Justice gives such an order from his own bench?” said Sharma. CPN (Maoist Centre) Spokesperson Pampha Bhusal said CJ Parajuli’s action is against the principle of justice. “A judge cannot look into the case of his/her relatives. This is a case of his own. The constitution has ensured freedom of press and it should be respected,” she said. (PR)