Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy is not yet out of the woods. On July 29, the Supreme Court postponed deciding whether to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Roy for publishing a highly critical essay about the social and environmental costs of Gujarat’s Sardar Sarovar dam, part of an ambitious irrigation and hydroelectric project along the Narmada River. The judges stated that Roy’s book was an “attempt to undermine the dignity of the court and influence the course of justice.”
In her book, The Greater Common Good, Roy attacked the court for allowing construction of the dam to continue.
Before postponing its decision, the court heard the recommendations of K.K. Venugopal, the amicus curiae appointed to investigate the case. Venugopal suggested that the court either issue a warning to Roy or else dismiss Roy’s remarks entirely as “irresponsible statements.”
Venugopal noted that orders issued by the Supreme Court on April 11, 1997, and November 5, 1998, prevented parties to the pending court case from discussing matters under litigation in the media, but emphasized that these orders may contradict constitutional guarantees protecting “the right to freedom of speech in regard to a matter of great public importance.” Venugopal also said that Roy’s statements were “not of a nature which is tantamount to scandalizing the court.”
The Supreme Court said it would resume hearings on the contempt issue on August 5.
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