WHAT CONSTITUTES CONTEMPT OF COURT
(An analysis of SC Judgment in case of RK Jain)
M.RAM KUMAR B.Sc., B.L. (M.B.A)
Inspector, Service Tax
Hats Off to SUPREME COURT. There can not be more appropriate time for Honourable Supreme Court than a near date August 15, 2010.- Independence Day. 63 Years ago it was on this day Indias freedom was granted the tyrannical British. But August 13, 2010 our Honble Supreme Court reinforced the need for respecting Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution of India, the right to freedom of expression. Yes. In its 45 page Judgment- a scathing indictment of the Petitioner who filed the Contempt Petition- The SC not only dismisses the petition but awarded cost of Rs. 0ne Lakh to the Respondent Sh. R.K.Jain, Editor, Excise Law Times and another One Lakh to be deposited to the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee(Para 25)
A humble attempt is made in this Article as how the Supreme Court treats Contempt cases and it is an eye opener for all those who try to petrify the judiciary itself by resorting to filing Contempt petition there by abusing the process of Law. This Article should not be misconstrued as an attempt to please the Respondent Editor or put to disgrace the petitioner or any one involved in the narration of the Judgment. The Supreme Court has now postulated the following as to what amounts to Contempt and what not. Here are some points:
1. A bonafide criticism of functioning of an Institution like CESTAT does not amount to contempt.
2. Criticism of judges sometimes interferes with the administration of justice only when the yardstick for determination proves that there is malafide design by the contemnor
3. It has been well said that if judges decay the contempt power will not save them and so the other side of the coin is that judges, like Caesars wife, must be above suspicion as told by ever great Jurist Shri.Krishna Iyer. Therefore if the contemnor proves the facts then Court will not interfere.
4. Justice is not a cloistered virtue: she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even through outspoken comments of ordinary men- quoted in the SC Judgment.
5. Another quote A pleading is said to be scandalous if it alleges anything unbecoming the dignity of the court to hear or is contrary to good manners or which charges a crime immaterial to the issue. But the statement of a scandalous fact that material to the issue is not a scandalous pleading.
6. However the Apex Court has also quoted Dr. A.S.Anand, then C.J. - UNDER the cover of freedom of expression no party can be given a licence to misrepresent the proceedings and orders of the Court and deliberately paint an absolutely wrong and in complete picture which has the tendency to scandalize the court and bring to disrepute or ridicule- The implied meaning is a person who is writing a true story in his own journal (HERE ELT) can not be proceeded under Contempt.
7. The Supreme Court went on threadbare in all the reported cases of judicial irregularities attributed to various CESTAT benches and came to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong in the said Editorials as CESTAT President himself constituted an Inquiry Committee on the allegation which fact was not brought to notice of the Solicitor General or Advocate General before filing Contempt petition.
8. The Honble S.C further examined substituted Section 13 and held that expression of opinion on truth alone is a valid defence when it is in public interest and such writings will only help to make corrective actions by the concerned.
9. The Supreme Court has finally found that there is no reason to silence such person by invoking Articles 129 or 215 of the Constitution or the provisions of the Act
10. Each person who resorts to contempt should select the right side of the Law other wise Court will not allow such frivolous petitions.
Let every one in Judiciary, Lawyers, Departmental men working in Legal Sections and others take note of this important judgment and try to understand what is Contempt
(The views are personal written on academic interest no malice is meant anyone)