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In Re: Marmaduke Pickthall (No. 2) - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtMumbai
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Application No. 320 of 1922
Judge
Reported in(1923)25BOMLR107
AppellantIn Re: Marmaduke Pickthall (No. 2)
Excerpt:
.....of october 11 characterizing the paragraph as highly objectionable and apologizing to the chief justice and judges of the high court for the offensive expressions it contained and for the appearance of each a paragraph in his paper as the result of defective supervision due to illness. the offensive and objectionable nature of the allegations against the judges in the paragraph referred to in the petition having been admitted, the only question which remains is what order should be made on the rule. then it was unfortunate for the respondent that this was the fifth occasion during the last three and a half years on which we have had to complain of matter published in the bombay chronicle. on the first two occasions we were satisfied with apologies without ordering the then editor to..........of october 11 characterizing the paragraph as highly objectionable and apologizing to the chief justice and judges of the high court for the offensive expressions it contained and for the appearance of each a paragraph in his paper as the result of defective supervision due to illness. a copy of the paper containing the apology was sent to the prothonotary for the information of the chief justice and judges and came before us in due course. in his affidavit tiled in showing cause against the rule, the respondent said he knew of the publication of the article in the paper after it was printed therein. on saturday, october 7, he was in his office till about 8 p. m. until when the proofs of the article were not received by him for perusal. he left office for dinner and in the ordinary.....
Judgment:

Norman Macleod, Kt., C.J.

1. On November 13, 1922, a rule was issued at the instance of the Government of Bombay against the respondent as Editor, Printer and Publisher of The Bombay Chronicle to show cause why he should not be committed for contempt of Court in respect of the publication of an article headed 'En Passant' containing the paragraph 'Long live our Judges 'in the Sunday issue of the paper of October 8, 1922.

2. The respondent published an apology in the issue of the paper of October 11 characterizing the paragraph as highly objectionable and apologizing to the Chief Justice and Judges of the High Court for the offensive expressions it contained and for the appearance of each a paragraph in his paper as the result of defective supervision due to illness. A copy of the paper containing the apology was sent to the Prothonotary for the information of the Chief Justice and Judges and came before us in due course. In his affidavit tiled in showing cause against the rule, the respondent said he knew of the publication of the article in the paper after it was printed therein. On Saturday, October 7, he was in his office till about 8 P. M. until when the proofs of the article were not received by him for perusal. He left office for dinner and in the ordinary course he could have returned to office about 10 P.M. As he felt tired and exhausted he did not go back to office. He had had a serious illness. The suggestion in the affidavit that if we had seen the apology we would not have granted the rule was singularly ill-advised, as a copy of the apology was annexed to the petition of the Government Pleader. The offensive and objectionable nature of the allegations against the Judges in the paragraph referred to in the petition having been admitted, the only question which remains is what order should be made on the rule. We demur entirely to the veiled suggestion in the respondent's affidavit that the publication of an apology must necessarily be sufficient satisfaction for the contempt committed. In this case, at any rate, it was necessary that the respondent should be called upon to appear before us. Then it was unfortunate for the respondent that this was the fifth occasion during the last three and a half years on which we have had to complain of matter published in The Bombay Chronicle. On the first two occasions we were satisfied with apologies without ordering the then Editor to appear before us in Court.

3. On June 9, 1922, a rule was issued against the present respondent with regard to an article headed 'The Malegaon Appeals.' And on June 10, another rule was issued with regard to an article headed 'British Justice'. In his affidavit on the first rule the respondent contended that he had done nothing beyond offering reasonable criticism of the judgment of the Division Bench and pointed out what the public opinion in the country expected of the High Court for whom he never intended to show disrespect. The acting Chief Justice in his judgment of September 20, described the article in question in the following words: In re Pickthall (1922) 25 Bom. L.R. 15.

We have considered the article and the affidavit in the light of the arguments before us. I am prepared to concede that the article does not constitute a personal abuse of the Judges such as we find for instance in Reg v. Gray [1900] 2 Q.B. 36 or In re Narasinna Chintaman Kelker I.L.R (1908) 33 Bom 240 nor does the article contain such a comprehensive condemnation of Courts including this Court and British Justice as is to be found in the recent case of In re Satyabodha : (1922)24BOMLR928 Taking the article as a whole and making due allowance for the style, the view point and the possible political bias of a journalist, I find it difficult to avoid the conclusion that the article does attribute improper motives and political bias to the Judges in upholding the several convictions. The article would as a whole leave on the mind of an ordinary reader the clear impression that injustice had been deliberately done on political grounds to some of the accused who were apparently innocent. In other words it attributes judicial dishonesty to the Judges.

4. The Court then imposed a fine of Rs. 200 without costs.

5. In his affidavit on the second Rule the respondent said he knew of the publication in the Chronicle of the article complained of after it was printed therein. It was impossible for him as Editor of the paper personally to supervise everything that went into the paper every day. If he had seen the article in question he would not have passed it for publication. It was published through a mistake of the Assistant Editor and he was sorry for the publication. Neither he nor the Assistant Editor meant any disrespect to the Court. When the rule came on for hearing the Court considered that the statements in the affidavit afforded under the circumstances a reasonable explanation of the manner in which the extract came to be published without his knowledge and discharged the Rule.

6. It cannot be suggested for a moment that the Court has not treated the Editor of the Chronicle with the very greatest leniency, which appears to me, I must regret to say, to have been entirely misunderstood. The respondent charged with commenting on pending proceedings says 'you can't expect me to supervise everything that goes into the paper' and he is discharged. The respondent accuses the Judges of judicial dishonesty and he is fined Rs. 200 without costs. The paragraph now before us evidently refers to these two proceedings for contempt, for it begins, 'Speaking of contempt of Court', though there was no previous reference to the subject. The object of the writer was to convey to his readers the idea that the Judges were the creatures of the Executive. This is not a criticism on a pronouncement of the Judges in a particular case, it is a sweeping assertion of the vilest character against all the Judges in India. Entirely accepting the respondent's statement that the article in question was very far from being in accordance with his policy or views, with the remark that he could hardly have said less and might well have expressed himself more directly, still the responsibility for the publication of the objectionable matter must rest with him. The same excuse which secured his discharge in September will hardly avail him again. He had had his warning that it was eminently necessary either that he should revise the paper himself before it went to press, or that he should have some responsible person on his staff whose duty it was to put before the Editor any objectionable matter. If the impression is abroad that the grossest libels on the Judges can be published with impunity provided an apology is offered, then it is time that such an impression should be removed. An ignorant public is far more likely to believe the imputation and discard the apology.

7. As was said by Crump J. on the last Rule against the respondent:

It is impossible to permit the public to be poisoned with such calumnies as these. In a country such as this where more importance is attached to the printed word than it perhaps at times deserves, it would be difficult for the average reader to read the language used without conceiving grave doubts as to the integrity and impartiality of the Judges of the Court. Therefore in the interests of the administration of justice the Court cannot overlook this contempt.

8. The imposition of a nominal fine has been found to be useless. The ink was hardly dry on that judgment before the offence was repeated, If an individual had been libelled a substantial sum would have been awarded for damages on the principle that a newspaper should not be tempted to increase its profits by encroaching on private rights. We are now acting in defence of public rights. The respondent must pay a fine of Rs. 5,000 and the costs of the Rule. We allow a week for the payment of the fine.

Crump, J.

9. So far as principles go I have nothing to add to what I have said in my judgment of September 20, 1922. The article now in question is plainly a contempt and in view of the past record of this paper I agree that the time for leniency is gone. In the last case we dealt leniently with the offence because it was apparent to us that the true limitations on criticism of this nature were imperfectly understood, and we hoped that the result of our order would be that such criticism would be confined within its proper limits. The result has not been achieved. The apology in the present case cannot be accepted. It is not the first instance of careless supervision, and an apology does not remedy the evil caused by publication of the objectionable matter. If, as I have already pointed out, we act in the interests of the administration of justice it is clear that while an apology may be to some extent a reparation on the part of the offender, it cannot overtake and counteract the mischief already done by the original publication. Where the publication is due to a repetition of negligence which has been condoned in the past, an apology becomes little more than an idle form, I agree in the order proposed.


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