1. On the report, dated 14-3-1951, of Gourishankar Shandilya, a member of the Municipal Committee, Deori, the police prosecuted Beti Bal 'alias' Bitola under Sections 294 and 506(1), Indian Penal Code in the Court of Shri R. R. Bhiros, Magistrate Second Class, Rehli. The clialan was filed on 26-3-1951. She pleaded guilty. She was convicted and sentenced to fines of Rs. 20/- and Rs. 30/- under Sections 294 and 506(1) respectively on 30-7-1951.
2. During the pendency of the case, the following news-item appeared in 'Prahari' in its issue, dated 22-7-1951 of which Rameshwar Prasad Guru (N. A. No. 2) is the Editor and Publisher, while Bhawani Prasad Tiwari (N. A. No. 1) is the printer:
'Black deeds of Janapada member'.
It is learnt from reliable source that (a member of?) the congress Janapada of Deori who was so to say accused of having caught the 'anchal' of a woman and a report about which was made at the local police station, being a partisan of the Station-House Officer, the case was reversed and started against the woman. The hearing of the said case is going on in the lower Court at present. It is being discussed in the public that he called the said woman in a hotel, rebuked and scolded her. He is a great devotee of officers and from behind them reaps undue advantage from the public. The Municipal Committee had not given the work of supervising lamps to the said person, even then taking cover behind it, (he) started the case against that woman. Neither is there any resolution in the Municipal Committee nor is there any order of any officer. This very 'khadi' clad leader on his standing of for M.L.A. (ship) and future Municipal elections, has even resigned from the Municipality, because he always stands for elections. It is not understood why these opportunist leaders have tarnished the name of the Government. It is hoped that the Government will very soon cast a glance of Justice towards this. The public has come to know him very well.
The public hopes for an impartial inquiry and decision from the Government.
'Subhchintak' in its issue of 23-7-1951 of which Balgovind Gupta (N. A. No. 3) is the printer and publisher while Narmada Prasad Khare (N. A. No. 4) is the editor and publisher, published the following news-item:
The echo of catching hold of the breast portion of the 'sari' of a woman in the town. Black deed of an opportunist Khadi wearing leader.
In the local town one famous Khadi-wearing leader of Deori who is a Janpad and Municipal Member had given proof of his black deed by committing the alleged offence of catching hold of the 'anchal' (breast-portion of the 'sari') of a lady in March last. The lady had made a report in that connection also at the local station-house. But as the Police Sub-Inspector happened to be partial, no case could be started. But on the contrary, a case was started against the said lady and it is at present pending in the Court. The public wants an impartial enquiry in respect hereof to be made by the Government as to why in this way a case was illegally instituted against the said lady. The reason appears to be fear at the sight of 'khadi'.
3. On 10-9-1951, Shri Bharos submitted a report for action for contempt of Court against the aforesaid printers and publishers as well as Mst. Beti Bai. He observed:
It would appear from the two publications that Mst. Beti Bai 'alias' Betola accused and the two newspapers meant to hamper justice by stating therein that this Court was trying a false case and was siding with the police. By these publications an offence under contempt of Court has been committed.
4. The first contention raised by learned Counsel for the non-applicants is that as there was no affidavit accompanying the report, the proceedings are not maintainable. Reliance is placed on Rule 16 of Chap. 4 of the High Court Rules and on - 'State Government, Madhya Pradesh v. Vinaya Kumar Parashar' AIR 1952 Nag 34. The second contention is that the publications did not refer to the case of Beti Bai. Thirdly, it is said that there was no intention to prejudice the trial. The non-applicants in their written statements tendered an unqualified apology if it is found that they had committed contempt of Court.
5. There is no force in the contention that the report of the Magistrate should have been accompanied by an affidavit. Rule 16(1)(vi), Chap. 4 of the High Court Rules requires that a petition for action for contempt of Court should be accompanied by an affidavit. A report by a Magistrate is not a petition within the meaning of this rule. This rule applies to a case where this Court is moved by a petition to take action for contempt of Court by a party by means of a petition. The petition may be by the State Government or by a private party. There is no bar to any Judge or Magistrate reporting to this Court any matter of contempt for action committed against him or his Court. There is no rule enjoining them to send an affidavit in support of the report. The object of the report is to apprise this Court of the alleged contempt. It is for this Court to call for such affidavit as it considers necessary to enable it to take action against the offenders. In - AIR 1952 Nag 34 It is observed by a Bench of which one of us was a member:
The High Court is the authority primarily and immediately concerned with matters of contempt committed against Courts subordinate to it. Every Judge and Magistrate has the right to report any matter of contempt committed against him or his Court to the High Court direct, and there are abundant cases where this has been done. It is not necessary, and in our opinion is most undesirable, that a matter relating so immediately to the administration of justice should be referred to outside authorities or that permission of any outside authority should be sought before an approach is made to this Court.
The objection is without substance. We may, however, point out that subsequent to the report, an affidavit dated 21-12-1951 of Shri Bharos, an affidavit dated 14-2-1952 of S. R. Saini, Reader to Shri Bharoa, and another affidavit dated 14-2-1952 of Gouri Shankar Shandilya were filed by the learned Government Pleader.
6. The second contention is that the publication as a news-item did not refer to the case against Beti Bai. It was pointed out that the names of the prosecutor and the accused were not mentioned. No details of the case nor the name of the Court were disclosed. Learned Counsel for the non-applicants 1 and 2 suggested in his argument that the news-item might have reference to a case outside the State, and this Court has no jurisdiction to take action. There is no substance in the objection that the reference in the news-item was to some other State, Shri Bharos in his affidavit has stated that the news-item referred to the case of Beti Bai. To the game effect is the affidavit of his reader Saini Who stated:
Besides this case no other case of the kind about which articles have been published in the aforesaid newspapers on the aforesaid dates was going on in July 1951.
Gourishankar Shandilya in his affidavit affirmed:
When my case no. 14/51 ('The State-through Gourishakar Shandilya v. Mst. Beti Bai alias Mst. Bitola') was going on in the Court of Shri R. R. Bharos Naib Tahsildar, Magistrate Second Class, Rehli, I was member of the Janpad Sabha, Rehli and Municipal Committee, Deori.
Articles published in the newspaper 'Prahari' of Jabalpur in its issue dated 22-7-1951 and the newspaper 'Subhchintak' of Jataalpur in its issue dated 23-7-1951 refer to the above-mentioned case No. 14/51 of mine alone.
The non-applicants beyond denying that the news-items did not refer to the case of Beti Bai did not give particulars of the case covered which, according to them, was the subject of the news-items. On the material before us, we are satisfied that the news-items referred to the case of Beti Bai in the Court of Shri R. R. Bharos.
7. The next question is whether the publication of the news-items amounts to contempt of Court as opinion was expressed on the merits of the pending cases. The suggestion in the 'Prahari' was that the police had wrongly prosecuted the woman. The person who should have been. prosecuted was the member of the Janpad Sabha (the reference is to Gourishankar). The offending, words are:
being a partisan of the Station-House Officer, the case was reversed and started against the woman. The hearing of the said case is going on in the lower Court at present.
In 'Subhchintak', there was a similar reflection on the conduct of the police in prosecuting the woman instead of the municipal member. It says : 'The lady had made a report in that connection-also at the local Station-house. But as the Police Sub-Inspector happened to be partial, no case could be started. But on the contrary, a case was started against the said lady; (and) it is at present pending in the Court.'
8. It was argued that the intention was not to prejudice the trial, but to invite the attention of Government. A request was made for an impartial enquiry by Government. We do not agree. The gist of the news-items is that the case against the woman was false and the real culprit was Gourishanliai. It is contempt to abuse a party concerning a pending case to prejudice mankind against persons concerning the cause before it is heard. In - 'T, B. Hawkins v. D. P. Mishra' AIR 1952 Nag 2159, a Division Bench of which one of us was a party held:
The intention of the person commenting on a pending proceeding is immaterial in deciding if it amounts to contempt of Court. The comment is equally actionable in the absence of an intention to interfere with the administration of justice if it has that tendency or is calculated to interfere with the administration of justice. ....Publications of comments about pending cases are to be deprecated and an undertaking of the kind is almost always hazardous. Newspapers and others must avoid such comments and if they choose to make them, they will do so at their own peril.
In - 'Wasudeoraoji Slieorey v. A.D. Mani AIR 1951 Nag 28, it was held:
The publication in newspapers of reports of proceedings before a Court of law must be true, accurate and without malice. A fair statement in a newspaper of what takes place in a Court of law is privileged. The privilege does not extend to the publication of false opinion on the facts of the case which may operate prejudicially to a party to the proceedings before the Court.
The non-applicants are guilty of contempt of Court.
9. We do not, however, consider it necessary to impose any sentence. The course of trial was not affected by the publications in question. It does not appear that the trial Magistrate had read them before deciding the case. The offences for which Beti Bai was tried and convicted were not of a serious character. We were also informed during the arguments that Gourishankar had instituted, criminal proceedings under Section 500, Indian Penal Code. The non-applicants in their written statements and through their counsel have tendered an apology. In the circumstances, the ends of justice will be met by recording our grave disapproval of the action of the non-applicants. The costs of paper-books will be paid by the non-applicants.