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Het Ram Beniwal and Ors. v. Raghuveer Singh and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (21 Oct 2016)

If there is calculated effort to undermine judiciary, Courts will exercise jurisdiction to punish offender for contempt


Contempt of Court

Appellants were found guilty of committing contempt by High Court of Rajasthan. Simple imprisonment of two months and fine was imposed. Aggrieved by said judgment, Appellants have filed present Criminal Appeals. Appellants along with Sheopat Singh belong to Marxist Communist Party. Sheopat Singh died during the pendency of these proceedings. Appellants Nos. 2 and 3 are advocates. Appellants addressed a huge gathering of their party workers in front of Collectorate on 23rd February, 2001. While addressing gathering, Appellants made scandalous statements against High Court which were published in Lok Sammat newspaper.

Vilification of judges would lead to destruction of system of administration of justice. Statements made by Appellants are not only derogatory but also have propensity to lower the authority of the Court. Accusing judges of corruption results in denigration of the institution which has an effect of lowering the confidence of the public in the system of administration of justice. A perusal of the allegations made by Appellants cannot be termed as fair criticism on merits of the case. Appellants indulged in an assault on integrity of judges of High Court by making baseless and unsubstantiated allegations. They are not entitled to seek shelter under Section 5 of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

Every citizen has a fundamental right to speech, guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Contempt of Court is one of the restrictions on such right. Power under the Act has to be exercised sparingly and not in a routine manner. If there is a calculated effort to undermine judiciary, Courts will exercise their jurisdiction to punish the offender for committing contempt.

Apex Court approved the findings recorded by High Court that, Appellants have transgressed all decency by making serious allegations of corruption and bias against High Court. Caustic comments made by the Appellants cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be termed as fair criticism. Statements made by Appellants, accusing judiciary of corruption lower the authority of Court. Explanation to Sub-Section 12(1) of Act provides that an apology should not be rejected merely on ground that, it is qualified or tendered at a belated stage, if accused makes it bona fide. The stand taken by Appellants in contempt petition and the affidavit filed in this Court does not inspire any confidence that, apology is made bona fide. After a detailed consideration of the submissions made by both sides and evidence on record, Court agreed with judgment of High Court that, Appellants are guilty of committing contempt of Court. In facts and circumstances of case including the fact that, contemptuous statements were made in 2001, Supreme Court modified the sentence to only payment of fine and dismissed the appeal.

Relevant : Sections 5, 12 of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, Article 19 of the Constitution of India


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