1. The petitioner is requesting this Court to take action against the respondent under Section 3 of the Contempt of Courts Act. The present litigation is an off-shoot of a prior litigation. The facts of that case are not relevant for deciding the present petition, but the background against which the present petition comes to be filed may be noted in brief.
2. The subject-matter of the present petition is an article written by the respondent R.K. Karanjia in his Weekly named 'Blitz' in the issue, dated April 20, 1968. The complainant had filed a complaint against the respondent in the Court of the Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Nagpur, under Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code. On the last page 01 the cover page of the issue of Blitz, dated 5th of March 1966, a picture of one Pamela Tiffin appeared which was being styled as obscene by the complainant in his complaint. The respondent defended himself but the case ended in conviction on 28th September 1967. The respondent filed an appeal in the Court of Session and, by his judgment dated February 13, 1968, the learned Sessions Judge accepted the appeal and acquitted the respondent. It also appears that some move was made in the Parliament for amending the provisions of Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code and to have that offence tried by a Tribunal higher than the Judicial Magistrate, First Class. Those discussions were held in the Parliament in February and March of 1968.
3. Against this background and after the acquittal by the Sessions Judge, the respondent wrote the present article which is now being impugned. After the article was published in the issue, datedApril 20, 1968, the complainant petitioner filed a criminal application on April 22, 1968 for permission to file an appeal under the provisions of Section 417(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. He also moved this Court on April 25, 1968 by the present application. According to the petitioner, the article as a whole and more particularly some of the passages, which are quoted in the petition, are calculated to undermine the dignity and prestige of the judiciary. They are in the nature of an unjustified criticism against the trial Judge personally, as also against the entire lower judiciary. The petitioner, therefore, brings to the notice of this Court that a contempt has been committed by the respondent by publishing the said article and that appropriate action may be taken by this Court.
4. When this petition was admitted and a show cause notice was sent to the respondent, he appeared in the Court on July 30, 1968 and produced what is styled by the respondent as his unqualified apology 'for any word, sentence or para which may be construed as contempt of Court'. It may be mentioned that the petitioner in his petition had specifically quoted two paragraphs from the article which, in the opinion of the petitioner, clearly amounted to contempt. On July 30, 1968 the matter was called out before another Bench of this Court. It was then brought to the notice of the respondent and his Advocate, who was present, that there was another paragraph relating to the probe being made into the circumstances of the Nagpur case, which means the trial for obscenity. There were certain observations regarding the probe being made by the Chief Minister of the State and the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court and it was particularly pointed out that if such probe was undertaken it would be as astounding as it would be rewarding. The respondent was told by the learned Judges of that Bench that here was a passage which prima facie demanded an enquiry into the Judge's conduct or the judgment of the Court, and if such course was permitted, that would be the end of the judiciary. What explanation the respondent had to offer in respect of that paragraph? When such an enquiry was made, an adjournment was sought by the learned Counsel for the respondent as he wanted to take instructions and file the reply. The matter was then adjourned to August 12, 1968 on which date the explanation to the query made, was filed in the form of an affidavit sworn by the respondent. On that date, further adjournment was sought. The learned Counsel Mr. Banerjee had some personal difficulty. Adjournment was granted and the matter was posted for hearing on August 19, 1968. Yesterday, when the matter was calledout, Mr. Manohar, another learned Counsel, appeared for the respondent along with Mr. Banerjee and he produced an apology again in the form of an affidavit. When the case was called out, we were not aware of this apology in the form of an additional affidavit as it was filed just when the matter was called out. We pointed out to Mr. Manohar that the apology so-called, which was filed on the previous day of hearing, does not appear to be either an apology or at any rate an unqualified apology. He, therefore, said that the respondent was producing another affidavit containing the apology which would indicate his mind in a proper manner. He now tenders unreserved, unqualified and unconditional apology. When we brought to his notice that the wording in this apology paragraph No. 1, was almost the same as in the earlier and would not, therefore, amount to an unconditional apology, Mr. Manohar pointed out that there was a typing mistake and the affidavit in terms did not represent what the respondent wanted to say or was dictated to the stenographer. In this manner, we have the last affidavit filed yesterday which, according to the respondent, now indicates what he precisely thinks in respect of the charges that are made against him.
5. When the matter was called out and the three apologies appeared on the record, one of the questions that we ourselves raised for consideration was whether in fact the article of the respondent amounts to a contempt. The petitioner alleged that it constitutes a contempt of Court. The respondent's learned Counsel also admitted that in his view this was a contempt. The last affidavit filed by the respondent also concedes that the article amounts to contempt. However, the respondent further places himself at the mercy of this Court for accepting the apology as sufficient amends and to treat the contempt as purged. Whether such an apology should be accepted and the contempt should be deemed to have been purged or some other punishment appropriate to the occasion is called for, was the only issue that was debated.
6. Though the only question that fell for decision was whether the apology tendered by the respondent should be accepted as sufficient amends we were generally addressed on the nature of the article, the type of contempt and the case law which deals with what constitutes a contempt and, what punishment was meted out to the persons concerned. We must point out to the credit of the learned Counsel on both sides that they took a complete survey of all the important decisions on this point. We were taken through the judgments of the PrivyCouncil, the Supreme Court and the various High Courts including this Court, What constitutes a contempt of Court in now settled law. The contempt of Court is committed in two different ways. One way is to attack the Judge or the Courts generally and level against them criticism which far exceeds the bounds of legitimate criticism. When the judiciary as such, or the Judge in particular is so attacked and the attack may contain various kinds of imputations, such a contempt is styled as scandalizing the Court itself. The other type of contempt is committed when there is an attempt to interfere with the course of justice, an instance in point would be publishing material affecting the party defending itself, while a case is pending. This amounts to obstruction or interference in the course of justice. So far as the present article is concerned, it is in the nature of a direct attack on the particular trial Judge who delivered a judgment of conviction and it also includes sweeping remarks against the entire lower judiciary. There is, therefore, no doubt that the impugned article falls under the category of scandalizing the Court itself.
7. In order to find out whether the article in fact constitutes an offence and, if so, what is the gravity of that offence, we heard learned Counsel on both sides and got the article read in the Court as a whole. How this article should be read was one of the questions that was debated before us. The learned Counsel for the respondent Mr. Manohar submitted that this article cannot be analysed microscopically as a statute is analysed and that will have to be read in a broad manner and the normal sense that is conveyed by the words used must be accepted. We think that this is a correct approach. The article is published in a weekly newspaper and we agree that the effect of this article should be gauged from the point of view of a reader who reads the weekly in a certain manner. Newspapers of this type and magazines are not studied like text-books. They are hurriedly read and the broad impression that the article creates on the mind of a normal reader should be the test for the purpose of calculating the possible mischief that such an article would lead to. This argument was particularly emphasised before us, because the petitioner in his petition has singled out two passages for pointing out the grave nature of the contempt. In addition, on the first date of hearing, the learned Judges, who constituted another Bench, called up on the respondent to explain what precisely he meant by calling for a probe or enquiry into the Nagpur case. The paragraph requiring the Chief Justice and the Chief Minister to make an enquiry into this case, was particularly brought to his notice and he was asked to explain the nature of enquiry that was contemplated. During the course of the argument before us, the last paragraph where the trial Judge's judgment has been criticised and is equated with an April-fool joke, was particularly emphasised on behalf of the petitioner. It is under these circumstances that Mr. Manohar argued that an analysis word by word and sentence by sentence is not the proper manner of reading such a newspaper article. When unjustified and excessive criticism of the judiciary is treated as a contempt of Court, the ground on which it is so treated, is that such unwarranted, unjustified and un-occasioned malicious criticism tends to undermine the prestige and dignity of the judiciary. This is only one effect. Such criticism, if it passed unnoticed, has also the tendency to shake the confidence of the common man in the impartiality of the judiciary. The respondent himself points out in the second paragraph of his apology that he considers Courts as the bulwark of liberty and the rights of the people. If this is the position of the judiciary which the Constitution has given it, it is the duty of every right-thinking citizen not to do anything consciously or unconsciously which will undermine that special position of the judiciary. Since this is the reason why the proceedings are taken against a mischief of this type, the effect that such article will create on the mind of a common reader must according to us, determine the gravity or otherwise of the offence.
8. Though Mr. Manohar, learned Counsel appearing for the respondent, said that the time chosen was most inopportune and the article was unnecessary, let us examine by looking to the contents of the article itself what justification the writer had for writing such an article. Mr. Manohar made a very able attempt to defend the respondent by pointing out why this article was written and what precisely was in the mind of the writer. That argument was addressed to us not in justification of what was done but only by way of pointing out the extenuating circumstances. Mr. Dharmadhikari, learned Assistant Government Pleader appearing for the State, had the same approach but with a different emphasis. He took us through the second paragraph of this article which opens with the words 'from the Judicial Magistrate of Nagpur, whose strange judgment convicting me of the offence of obscenity shocked everybody...'. He says that the next portion of that paragraph no doubt refers to the debates of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. Though apparently the debates in the Parliament and Rajya Sabha are being pointed out as an occasion for writing this article, the main emphasis of the writer is that the judgment of conviction by the trial Magistrate was a strange judgment. The trial Magistrate, his judgment and in the sweep of his pen the entire lower judiciary are the objects of criticism. He intended to give the lower judiciary in general and the trial Magistrate in particular, a hit of his mind and was just waiting for some opportunity. The present pretension in the affidavit as also the argument addressed on his behalf that this was a genuine criticism against the background of the Lok Sabha debate does not appear to be so true. We do think that there is considerable force in what Mr. Dharmadhikari argued. However, since it is the accepted proposition that the judges individually as well as the judiciary as an institution, are open to legitimate and reasonable criticism, we would not much emphasise the occasion for writing an article. If a legitimate criticism is made and we assume that it is amply justified, there will be no occasion to enquire about the reason at all. For a good educative criticism, any occasion is good enough. It is more the contents of an article and the effect thereof that must be emphasised apart from the occasion on which it is written.
9. Reading the article as a whole as a normal reader might read, it appears to us that besides the title of the article, there are three sub-titles which are made attractive to catch the eye of any reader. The title of the article is 'whom will you fine for Konark and Khajuraho'. The sub-titles are 'abuse of law', 'Poor doomed' and 'probe imperative'. What the reader would think is that to publish pieces of art which are comparable to Konark and Khajuraho is itself being held as an offence and that amounts to abuse of law. When a conviction takes place, poor man has no future and the only remedy, therefore, is a probe into the incident that happened at Nagpur. If, however, we would consider a reader who will read the article as a whole, even in that case, the effect that will be created on his mind is fraught with great mischief. The first portion dealing with 'abuse of law' quotes out of context one observation of the learned Sessions Judge who allowed the appeal of the respondent. That observation points out that the judgment of the trial Court was 'a typical case of how a very conservative application of the penal provisions can suffocate or stop a normal good expression of art and science.' Against this quotation, a portion of the speech of one Mr. V. C. Shukla, Union Home Minister of State, is reproduced by styling it as an example of the triumph of commonsense. This passage may be a correct reproduction of the speech made by Mr. V. C. Shukla in the ParliamentMr. Shukla has recalled the Blitz case to point out where the lower Court Magistrate had punished the editor, but the Sessions Judge had acquitted him. Against the background of this portion is immediately the next part dealing with the inability of the poor to defend themselves in the Courts of law. What is then stated is that the poor are doomed. It may be alright that the Blitz had come out with triumphant colour, but a question is posed what about hundreds of those cases where those convicted and condemned by 'such harsh and unwarranted judgments' in the lower Courts do not own the financial and 'other resources' to get such convictions quashed and their honour and prestige vindicated by the higher Courts. Immediately follows a paragraph which says 'If only people with money and power can afford the luxury of such costly appeals, the poor will be doomed to submit to the whimsicalities of the lower Courts'. Now, this paragraph read against the background of criticism of the lower Courts made by a member of the Parliament on a privileged occasion undoubtedly makes an untrained common man to believe that there is no justice in the lower Courts and unless you have 'financial ability, other resources and power', you have no hope of vindicating your rights. Such remarks are likely to make the common readers feel that the judgments delivered by the lower Courts are generally whimsical, that is, without any rational basis, but depending upon the personal sporadic impulse of the Judge.
10. The next portion starting with the title 'probe imperative' first informs the reader how Blitz had to spend more than Rs. 20,000/- for defending itself. It is then pointed out that but for the magnificent manner in which leading citizens, trade unions, student organisations and other public bodies of Nagpur came to his rescue by organising a Blitz Defence Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. A. D. Mani, M.P., Chief Editor of Hitavada, it would have been difficult for the respondent to engage the services of top legal luminaries of Nagpur whose names are printed therein,
11. Having thus pointed out the great difficulty in defending himself and the generous help that he received from the Defence Committee Consisting of eminent people of Nagpur, the respondent proceeds to observe that something immediate and drastic has to be done to prevent 'social workers' of the brand of the complainant from continuing to put responsible laws of the land to public ridicule. Then follows the observations for which an explanation was called for. The respondent says that he would urge both the enlightened and forward-looking ChiefMinister of Maharashtra and Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court to institute an enquiry into the circumstances of the Nagpur case. The revelations that would result from such a probe, he assures them, would be 'as astounding as they would be rewarding'. We would pause here and consider the effect of this article. The subsequent paragraph which is more in the nature of a personal attack on the judge and his judgment, may be kept aside for the time being. We have no doubt that the last portion which we have kept aside for the time being, has the result of heightening the effect of the earlier portion. If the present defamatory matter is against the Judge and amounts to contempt of Court, the use to which that portion is being put in the article as a whole is undoubtedly to create deeper and more heightened impression upon the mind of the common reader.
12. We have practically summarised all the relevant matters in the article. According to us, the article read as a whole has the tendency to undermine the prestige of the lower judiciary as a whole. We are aware that the respondent is trying to give compliments to the appellate Court, but even those compliments serve the purpose of contrasting the judgment of the lower Court as against the judgment of the appellate Court. The effect on the mind of the normal reader is to make him feel that judgments of the trial courts are harsh and unwarranted. They do not take proper view of the provisions of law. The judgments are based upon whimsicality, and one is to have not only financial but other resources including power for obtaining justice. The necessary implication of such a criticism, therefore, is that something other than an objective, and impartial examination of the record of the case is responsible for the judgments of the lower Courts. If such extraneous factors are influencing the judiciary, and if that is the impression that is conveyed to a common man who is likely to believe the printed words, we are sure that uncalculated harm is going to follow so far as the function of the judiciary is concerned. When we put a query to the learned Counsel for the respondent as to what is meant by 'other resources' and what is again meant by 'people with money and power alone getting justice', he made an effort to point out that this has reference to the formation of the Defence Committee and nothing else. He also assured us that this was all in the mind of the respondent. Assuming for the argument's sake that the reference to 'other resources' may mean the assistance which the respondent got from the Defence Committee consist-big of local luminaries, how is the reference to 'power' explained? Had the Committee any 'power' in it by which ifobtained the judgment of acquittal.' The reference to factors like 'other resources and power' is sinister and indicated that the judiciary is likely to be influenced by outside factors. It is the criticism of this type and the tone of this article in ridiculing the lower judiciary as a whole that, according to us aggravated the situation. if against such a background, a common reader reads the passage relating to a probe or enquiry, and the assertion that the revelations that would result from such a probe would be 'as astounding as they would be rewarding', undoubtedly it would lead to great distrust in the judiciary. To say in arguments now, or to put an affidavit that the probe merely related to the complainant's conduct and his enmity towards the respondent is to make an attempt to water down the effect of the paragraph in its setting in the argument. Mr. Manohar argued that in the petition filed by the petitioner, there is no reference to this paragraph relating to probe. It, therefore, means that it did not occur to the complainant that this was an objectionable portion of the article. Thus, he pointed out to us as a support for his argument that this portion has nothing to do with the judge or his judgment. It may be that the complainant knew the entire record of the case including the statement of the accused under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. He knew, the defence of the accused and his reading of the article is likely to be slightly different from the reading of a common man who have ho knowledge of the background of the case. It was argued before us that the judgment was printed as a whole in an issue of the Blitz, dated October 7, 1967. It is well known that the newspaper matter even if read exhaustively, is forgotten soon. The time lag between October 7, 1967 and April 20, 1968 was so great that no reader would remember the judgment as such. We are making the most liberal concession to the respondent that the judgment, though printed as a whole, is also read by the common reader on October 7, 1967. Even on that footing, we think that while reading this article in April 1968, beyond a vague memory, he would have no recollection of the details of that judgment. The moment this article was read in Court on July 30, 1968, the first reaction of the Bench was that here was an implied or sly reference to the judge himself and if an enquiry was called for, it would disclose something astounding. We are not, therefore, impressed by the explanation offered on behalf of the respondent by Mr. Manohar.
13. We also think that the reference to an enquiry is deliberately so worded as to make the reader wonder, what dramatic matter is hidden behind the screen. However, the respondent has nowgiven a full explanation regarding the background of the case. Stated shortly, he wants to say that the complainant is a pro-Pakistani whose loyalty to this country is doubtful. He is assisted by some others of the same type who enter-tarn grudge against 'Blitz' for publishing the pictures on cover pages or other writings. Hence the motive behind the complaint is anything but pure. If this is all that was to be discovered by the Chief Minister and the Chief Justice after the suggested probe, we wonder whether this could even be described as either 'astounding or rewarding'. On the contrary the deliberate choice of dramatic words and deliberate suppression of this background from the article, throws considerable light on the mentality of the writer and his desire to corrupt the mind of the reader.
14. This portion again falls in between the earlier criticism of the lower Courts as such and the ridicule of the judge's judgment in the last paragraph. So far as the last paragraph is concerned, the respondent says that the 'PIN UP' case was not without its funny side even before the case went up in appeal to the higher Court. The respondent claims that after the full text of the judgment was printed, a friendly member of the judiciary made a query to him in writing whether it was a genuine reproduction of the judgment really delivered or it was some kind of April-fool joke that the respondent was making at the expense of the Magistrate. The respondent had to reassure the indicial friend that it was a verbatim reproduction of the authorised copy of the judgment duly signed by the Magistrate without any attempt by Blitz to hold it up to contempt or ridicule.
15. We made a query with the learned Counsel for the respondent whether his client was willing to disclose the name of the so-called 'judicial friend'. Mr. Manohar stated that his client would suffer the consequences himself and not disclose the name. We may, however, point out that in the initial affidavit filed by the respondent explaining the background of the article, it is not asserted on oath that there was in fact a 'judicial friend' who wrote the alleged letter. In the absence of an assertion on oath we have our own doubts whether there is in fact such a letter writer, or whether reference is a fake one made to cut one more joke at the cost of the Magistrate.
16. The sum total of the effect, according to us, therefore, is that a common reader, when he keeps the issue aside after reading this article, will think that the particular judgment of conviction was funny judgment written whimsically and the judgment was a harsh and unwarranted one, that judgments of lowerCourts are generally of this type and normally justice though available in higher Courts requires, money and other resources including power; and that if the suggested enquiry was held, it would disclose some thing alarming about the trial of the case by the Magistrate and set right the wrong that has been done in administration of justice and thus improve the tone of the judiciary at large. The least that can be said is that the article is calculated to shatter the confidence of the common reader in the impartiality, integrity and efficiency of the lower judiciary.
17. If this is the effect of the article read as a whole, the only conclusion to which we can reach is that this is a contempt of a very grave type. Though a large number of judgments of various Courts were referred to us, considerable number of them were cited on either side only to point out that a particular punishment is meted out and rarely substantive sentence under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act has been resorted to. The point relating to the quantum of punishment will be dealt with by us at the end of the judgment. We might now refer usefully to two judgments which bring into relief the quality and nature of contempt when certain acts are committed. So far as the criticism against the judiciary is concerned, we may refer to Aswini Kumar v. Arabinda Bose, : AIR1953SC75 . Those contempt proceedings were initiated by the Supreme Court against the respondent for writing an article in the Times of India Daily of October 30. 1952. In that article, extraneous motives and things of policies and politics were alleged against the Supreme Court Judges in the matter of their desire to abolish the dual system prevailing on the original side of some of the High Courts. The Supreme Court points out that if the article had confined itself merely to preach to the Courts of law the sermon of divine detachment, nothing was lost. But to impute motives and to allege that extraneous considerations go to the decision of the cases by the Supreme Court, is bound to undermine the administration of justice and is calculated to lead to greater mischief than can possibly be imagined. The observations of the Supreme Court in that behalf may be quoted:
'If an impression is created in the minds of the public that the Judges in the highest Court in the land act on extraneous considerations in deciding cases, the confidence of the whole community in the administration of justice is bound to be undermined and no greater mischief than that can possibly be imagined.'
Their Lordships of the Supreme Court clearly point out that this is not to suppress all criticism against the Judges and the judiciary. In fact, they quote with approval a passage from the judgment of the Privy Council in Andre Paul v. Attorney-General, AIR 1936 PC 141. The observations of Lord Atkin which are so often quoted in such cases are fully approved by the Supreme Court They do believe that 'the path of criticism is a public way and the wrong-headed are permitted to err therein; provided that members of the public abstain from imputing improper motives to those taking part in the administration of justice and are genuinely exercising a right of criticism and not acting in malice or attempting to impair the administration of justice, they are immune.' it is pointed out that 'justice is not a cloistered virtue; she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful even though out-spoken comments of ordinary men'.
18. Against this background, it is pointed out that when criticism not only exceeds the legitimate bounds but is based upon a personal attack most unjustified and vilification of a class of judges without any justification whatsoever, the effect is bound to be that the prestige and position of the judiciary will be undermined. In another judgment in the case of State of Madhya Pradesh v. Revashankar, : 1959CriLJ251 , the Supreme Court classifies the innumerable ways by which attempts could be made to hinder or obstruct the due administration of justice in Courts. Having pointed out the two broad categories of contempt of Court, they observed that where the unjustified criticism is in substance an attack on individual judges or the Court as a whole with or without reference to particular cases, causing unwarranted and defamatory aspersions upon the character and ability of the judges, such conduct is punished as contempt for the reason that it tends to create distrust in the popular mind and impair the confidence of the people in the Courts which are of prime importance to the litigants in the protection of their rights and liberties.
19. Several other judgments were
brought to our notice, but since they contain more or less similar observations relating to the nature of contempt and the manner in which it is to be held proved, it is not necessary to duplicate references. However, we think that a judgment of Mr. Justice Bose, as he then was, in the case of Sub-Judge, First Class, Hoshangabad v. Jawahar Lal Ramchand , may be usefully referred to in the matter of approaching the offence of contempt of Court and the view the Court should take about the punishment that is to be inflicted. The learned Judge has particularly drawnattention to the peculiar position of the lower judiciary. In that case, Sub-Judge, First Class, Hoshangabad had passed a certain order in the Judicial proceedings and a party litigant wrote a threatening letter to him. He challenged the legality of the act that was ordered to be done at the instance of the learned Judge and told him that he was doing so on his own responsibility and that the order was against law. That step is taken by the judge to cause loss to the defendant, and if he succeeded in the appeal, the judge will be responsible for making good the entire loss. When proceedings in contempt of Court were taken out against the writer of that letter, the learned Judge points out that it is necessary to take a particularly serious view of such contempts when they relate to the members of the lower judiciary. It would be better to point out the reasons thereof in the words of the learned Judge himself;
'But I feel that it is necessary to take a serious view of the matter in order to protect Judges in the lower Courts who are not as favourably situated as we are here and who have difficulties and obstacles to overcome from which we are happily free; also in order to leave no mistake or misunderstanding in the minds of the general public that this sort of attempt at intimidation will not be lightly passed over'.
20. In view of the observations cited from the above judgments and bearing in mind the circumstances of the case, we think that the offence committed by the present respondent is not only of a grave nature, but serious view requires to be taken thereof. Judgments of conviction by one Court and acquittal by the higher Court, or a judgment of acquittal by the lower Court and a conviction by the higher Court is a routine matter in judicial proceedings. No grievance can be made simply because the judgment has gone against a particular party. No Judge can ever decide a case in a manner which will please both sides. It is because of this that often it is said that a compromise is the best manner in which a litigation could be terminated. Then alone, the parties feel satisfied because each has agreed to the final decision. The duties of a judge are in the circumstances onerous and he must be in a position to discharge them without any fear or favour. Any attempt at intimidation or bullying or holding out a threat of unjustified criticism or an unwarranted attack undermining his prestige must therefore, be put down with a strong hand.
21. We might now consider usefully some references made before us to the circumstances in which punishment is to be meted out when the offence of contempt of Court appears to be committed. Mr. Manohar referred us to 1968 SC (Notes) No. 383, in the case of Debabrata Bandopadhaya v. State of West Bengal, : 1969CriLJ401 . He particularly drew our attention to the observations of the learned Judges of the Supreme Court that punishment under the law of contempt is called for when the lapse is deliberate and is in disregard of one's duty and in defiance of authority. To take action in an unclear case is to make the law of contempt do duty for other measures and is not to be encouraged. Undoubtedly those are the only circumstances in which an act of contempt is not only looked with disfavour but is required to be put down with a strong hand. II the lapse is not deliberate but is by a slip or by an error of judgment and that explanation appeals to a Court of law, we have no doubt that in the circumstances the contempt should be styled as technical contempt and a sincere apology would be enough to purge such contempt. If the action to be taken is in the case of a deliberate lapse which is in disregard of duty and is also in defiance of authority, then undoubtedly, appropriate punishment is called for.
22. Examining now the respondent's article from that point of view, we find that the weekly newspaper Blitz has a circulation of two lac copies as was stated at the bar on behalf of the respondent. It was because of a query by us that the answer came to be given. In the context of calculating the harm that is done by such publication, the extent of publicity is a relevant factor. It is in that context we made the query as to what was the circulation of this paper. If the circulation is to the tune of about two lac copies per week, it must be said that the respondent, as the editor of such a widely circulated paper, has great responsibility. In common man's language, this paper will have to be described as a popular paper. The more popular the paper is, the greater is going to be the effect of writing in proportion to the stability, prestige and circulation of the paper, and the responsibility of the editor and those who manage it is proportionately heightened. Criticism from people placed in such position has got to be reasonable and must exhibit a high tone. When the respondent wrote this article, it could not be said that he was not familiar at all with the Courts, their position and the law relating to contempt of Court. On a query by us again, Mr. N. Kamlakar, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner, referred us to a judgment of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Babulal Shukla v. Shivprasadsing, : AIR1957MP152 . He particularly emphasised an observation of that Court thatwhile considering whether the apology alone is sufficient to purge the contempt, the past conduct of the person accused of having committed contempt and the nature of impugned publication must be taken into account. He, therefore, pointed out to us in that context that the respondent had previously to face such proceedings on some occasions. We, there-fore, asked the learned Counsel for the respondent to make a statement after enquiry with the respondent whether he was in fact involved in such proceedings and what were the results thereof. It was stated at the bar on behalf of the respondent that on one occasion in 1952, a show cause notice was issued against the respondent by this Court in Bombay. He said that some reports of a pending case were published in the columns of this weekly. The contempt proceedings arose from the publication of those reports. The original litigation of which reports were published, was between Chester Bowles, the American Ambassador on the one hand and Mr. R. K. Karanjia the present respondent, and one Mr. Karaka on the other. The apology was then tendered and was accepted. The other occasion was when a similar proceeding was initiated against the respondent in the Madhya Pradesh High Court and which case is reported in Padmawati Devi v. R. K. Karanjia, : AIR1963MP61 . That case arose out of publication of certain reports even when the police investigation was continuing. One of the points raised was whether publishing such reports before the filing of the charge sheet amounts to an interference with the course of justice. The Madhya Pradesh High Court then considered whether the apology sent by the respondent through post should be accepted. They held that it was no apology at all as no regrets were expressed for the wrong done. There was also an attempt to justify the publication of the material. Under the circumstances, the respondent was fined. The learned Counsel for the petitioner Mr. N. Kamlakar, therefore, urged before us that here is a respondent who is not only the editor of a widely circulated paper but is fully conversant with the law of contempt. He said that it is often said that experience is the best teacher, but the respondent in this case does not seems to have profited by his past experience. These circumstances are stated before us only to point out that the lapse committed by the respondent could not be said to be an accidental slip but it appears to be a deliberate and calculated assault on the dignity of the lower Court. It is particularly necessary for us to examine this position because Mr. Manohar in his persuasive manner made a very strenuous effort to point out to us that the respondent is really feeling remorse and this contempt should be deemed to have been purged by accepting this apology. We may at once point out as has been observed in several judgments of the Supreme Court as well as in the judgment of Mr. Justice Bose as he then was in the case of , that an apology is not a weapon of defence forged to purge the guilty of their offences. It is not an additional insult to be hurled at the heads of those who have been wronged. It is intended to be evidence of real contriteness, the manly consciousness of a wrong done, of an injury inflicted, and the earnest desire to make such reparation as lies in the wrong-doer's power. Mr. Dharmadhikari particularly emphasised this approach and says that the circumstances under which the so-called apology has been tendered by the respondent may be examined. An apology, which is unreserved, clean and immediately offered at the earliest opportunity, is an apology which undoubtedly must be given greater weight than a belated apology. If an unreserved, unconditional and unqualified apology is not tendered immediately on the realisation of the mistake committed but if after some discussion in the Courts and after getting a possible feeling that the matter may lead to grave consequence, an apology comes to be offered, it loses much of its grace. An apology, which as Mr. Justice Bose as he then was says, should be evidence of real contriteness and manly consciousness of the wrong done; it ceases to be so if it is belated, and it becomes instead, to borrow the language of Mr. Justice Bose, again the cringing of a coward shivering at the prospect of the stern hand of justice about to descend upon his head. When we examined the circumstances under which the apology comes to be tendered in this case, we find that the so-called apology tendered on the first day of hearing, namely, July 30, 1968 is not an unreserved and unconditional apology at all. In the first paragraph of the affidavit filed on that day there is an attempt to explain the circumstances under which the article came to be written. That portion may smack of an attempt to justify, but it is at once explained that the respondent, without entering into any lengthy discussion of the article or attempting to justify the same, was tendering an apology. When we say that the apology tendered does not appear to be an unreserved and unconditional apology, it would be better to quote the wording of the respondent himself so that what it contains may be notified by the words used by the respondent himself:
'Without entering into any lengthy discussion of the article or attempting to justify the same I hereby tender my unqualified apology to your Lordships forany word, sentence or para which may be construed as contempt of Court and pray that your Lordships may be pleased to accept the same and discharge the rule nisi.'
23. When this Bench was seized of this matter and the case opened on August 19, 1968, we told Mr. Manohar that the apology which we have quoted above does not appear to us to be the kind of unreserved and unconditional apology that is expected from a wrongdoer who really feels remorse. He does not exhibit anywhere the consciousness that he has done a wrong. He does not plainly admit Ms responsibility for the wrong and show the preparedness to minimise that wrong or to wash away the effect of his conduct by an unqualified, unreserved and sincere apology. What he says at best is that 'he is tendering an Unqualified apology for any word, sentence or para which may be construed as contempt of Court.' By necessary implication and after reading this affidavit as a whole, the impression that is created, is that the respondent does not think that there was anything objectionable in the article. He does not admit that he has done a wrong which is to be retrieved by repentance. What he says is that for any word, sentence or para which may be construed as con-tempt of Court, he has an apology to tender. When we told Mr. Manohar of what we think of such an apology. Mr. Manohar said that he had tendered another apology at the beginning of the day which, in the circumstances, could not be circulated in the papers earlier He, therefore, brought to our notice another , apology. As luck would have it, even this affidavit of the apology had the same wording which we may reproduce:
'I further tender and convey my unqualified, unreserved and unconditional apology to their Lordships and the members of the judiciary for any word, sentence, passage or paragraph in the said articles, which may construe as contempt of Court'.
Here the improvement only consists of referring to the members of the judiciary at large and the addition of one more adjective namely 'unreserved'. In the operative part, it had again reference to the same position, namely, that 'the apology is tendered for any word, sentence, passage or paragraph in the said article, which may he construed as contempt of Court'. Since this was not materially different, we asked .Mr. Manohar how is this apology different from the first. Mr. Manohar said that there appeared to be a typing mistake which was immediately corrected. The present apology is as follows:
'I further tender and convey my unqualified, unreserved and unconditional apology to their Lordships and the Members of the Judiciary for every word, sentence, passage or paragraph appearing in the said article and plead guilty to the charge'.
We will not make any fetish at all of the typing error that crept in the second apology which was first filed in Court in the beginning of the day on August 19, 1968, and we accept the word of Mr. Manohar as representing the truth. We will assume that the last apology which we have quoted above was the second apology tendered by the respondent on the 19th of August, 1968 when the hearing of this case began before in this Bench. The only question that remains to be considered is whether this apology which is tendered on the 19th of August, 1968 should be accepted and should be deemed enough to purge the contempt that is committed,
24. it may now be appropriate to refer to the approach of Mr. Manohar in the matter of punishment in contempt proceedings. Both sides refer to several decided judgments which are reported, By a statistical survey of these judgments, Mr. Manohar said that, in most of the cases, the apology was accepted 33 sufficient amends. in gross cases, the punishment was that only a fine was imposed. We are aware that the contempt proceedings are a special type of proceedings where summary justice is meted out. This proceeding is to be sparingly used only when the gravity of the occasion demands it. However, a statistical approach to punishment could not be considered to be either proper or judicial approach. The punishment in any case for the matter of that is primarily a matter of discretion. When the Legislature lays down that a particular offence is punishable upto a certain punishment in the form of substantive sentence as well as fine, a wide margin is available to the Courts to exercise their discretion. This discretion is judicially exercised and the punishment meted out has got to be commensurate with the occasion that demands the exercise of jurisdiction. Undoubtedly, the punishment should not be unduly harsh or severe, but it also need not be so light as to create an impression that whatever the gravity of the offence one could always escape lightly. A norm is, therefore, to be struck by examining the facts and circumstances of a particular case. It is only against this back ground that we think that we have before us a contemner who has indulged himself into a most unwarranted and most unhealthy criticism of an entire class of Judges, namely, the lower judiciary. He has given to this unwarranted criticism of very wide publicity, because paper is widely circulated paper. When it was brought to his notice by a show cause notice that he has committed a contempt and why action should not be taken against him, he has not come before the Court with the kind of genuine remorse accompanied by unreserved apology which alone is the kind of apology that is given due consideration by Courts. When he realised the possible grave consequences on the second occasion, he comes forward with an apology which for the first time suggests that he (the respondent) is admitting that he has done a wrong. When a belated apology comes from a person, who is an experienced journalist and who claims to be the head of a popular weekly and who had on two previous occasions known what contempt proceedings are, we do not think that even the belated apology should be considered as indication of real contriteness. It had its origin more in the fear of consequences that might be met-ed out to him rather than in any genuine feeling of remorse for having unnecessarily bestowed harm and injury upon the members of the lower judiciary. In the circumstances, we think that the apology tendered by the respondent should not be accepted. Accordingly we do not accept that apology. In the circumstances which we have described above, we are of the opinion that this case calls for a sentence which will be commensurate with the nature of the harm done by the article.
25. We accordingly convict the respondent under Section 3 of the Contempt of Courts Act and sentence him to suffer simple imprisonment for 15 days and to pay a fine of Rs. 2000/-. In default of payment of fine, he will suffer further simple imprisonment for 15 days. The respondent is given three weeks' time to pay the fine as well as to surrender himself.
26. At this stage Mr. Manohar, learned Counsel for the respondent, prays for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court which is refused.
27. Order accordingly.