India's Supreme Court Friday put on hold the sentencing of four journalists of a New Delhi-based tabloid who had accused former Indian chief justice YK Sabharwal of corruption.
The Delhi High Court on September 21 had sentenced the journalists from the Mid-Day newspaper to four month's in jail saying the allegations in the articles constituted contempt of court.
A division bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justice Arijit Pasayat and P Sathasivam admitted an appeal filed by the Mid-Day against the conviction ordered by the Delhi High Court and posted the next hearing on the matter for January 2008.
The bench however rejected an application filed by 27 prominent citizens who sought to implead themselves in the case.
The judges, while rejecting the application said the applicants had "no locus standi" as the question to be considered was whether the journalists had committed contempt or not.
Local media outlets termed the Supreme Court order as a "victory for the media." Several journalist associations had organized rallies and sit-ins to protest against the High Court verdict, which they described as a threat to the freedom of the press.
The Mid-Day had carried a series of articles in May alleging that two sons of Sabharwal who were involved in the construction of malls had directly benefited from his orders to shut down shops and offices operating from homes. But Sabharwal denied the allegations in his interviews with the media.
In its order, the High Court had said that the four journalists, including its publisher, two editors and a cartoonist had tarnished the image of judiciary by publishing unsubstantiated reports against Sabharwal.
"The nature of the revelations and the context in which they appear, though purporting to single out the former chief justice of India, tarnishes the image of the Supreme Court itself. It tends to erode the confidence of the general public in the institution," the court had said in its order. dpa sk pw