B.C. Gadgil, J.
1. This is a proceeding under the Contempt of Courts Act. The proceeding is initiated against four persons. Respondent No. 1 is a trade union leader or labour leader and in that capacity he is involved in many disputes before the labour courts and Industrial courts. Sometime before 25-11-1983 he released a statement to the press and on its basis the English daily 'Time of India' published the news item. That item reads as follows :---
DRAFT ALLEGED AMONG JUDICIAL OFFICERS
By a Staff Reporter
Bombay, November 84 : Allegations of corruption among judicial officials of the Industrial and labour courts were made by the Engineering Mazdoor Sabha to day.
Mr. R.J. Mehta, President of the Sabha demanded on behalf of the free trade union movement, the appointment of a High Court judge to investigate the matter.
In a statement here, he alleged that the Industrial and Labour courts were quoting different 'rates' for issuing injunctions against any party and for its confirmation and vacation.
The Sabha said that depending upon the consideration offered by the employers, the courts issued a decision reinstating a worker, rejected the demand or partially granted the demand.
Citing an instance, the Sabha said that a company was directed to lift its lock-out by the Industrial Court. The Company, however, had not allowed the workers to resume, resulting in the union bringing in a contempt application.
At the hearing of the application, the Judge was reported to have been sympathetic to the workers. At the next hearing, however he is alleged to have refused to hear the workers' Counsel.'
respondent No. 2 is the editor of the said newspaper, while respondent No. 3 is the resident editor. Respondent No. 4 is the printer and publisher of the newspaper. Shri S.A. Patil who is the Member of the Industrial Court submitted a report to this Court. According to him, the press release issued by respondent No. 1 and the publication thereof by respondents Nos. 2 to 4 amount to criminal contempt and that an appropriate action in that respect be taken. It is not necessary to reproduce the entire report submitted by him. Suffice it to mention the following observations in the report :---
'He (respondent No. 1) has proclaimed that the Labour Judiciary is a shop and the judges are selling justice at specified rates. Those who have read the news item in the Times of India and those who came to know about this sensational news would now be tempted to approach the judges of the Industrial Courts and Labour courts to enquire about their rates to strike bargains.'
(Vide paragraph 2 of the report.)
'The disparaging statement of Mr. R.J. Mehta has brought into dispute the very Institution of the Labour Judiciary which is put as extended limb of the Judiciary of our State. Mr. Mehta is not an ordinary man. He is a full time very active trade unionist and a well known Labour Leader with number of trade unions under his command. There are number of cases either filed by or against this unions pending in the Industrial and Labour courts in Bombay. Mr. Mehta earlier himself appeared in a number of cases in the Industrial courts. He often publishes his statements and expresses his views on important issues concerning Labour. The contempt of Court committed by him ought therefore to be viewed with all the seriousness it deserves.' (Vide paragraph 4 of the report).
2. This Court has issued notices to all the four respondents to show cause as to why action for Contempt of Court should not be taken.
3. Respondent No. 1 filed his affidavit in reply. In that affidavit he has expressed his regrets about the above-mentioned report. He has also unconditionally withdrawn the allegations and charges made in the report and has tendered unconditional apology. He has admitted that he has been a trade union leader and was involved in several disputes before the Industrial courts and Labour courts. He has further stated that he was considerably disturbed by some decisions. However, according to him, he now realised that it was an error on his part to rely upon the grievances about such decisions and to issue a statement to the press. At the fag end, he has stated that he had no intention of scandalising any member of the Labour of Industrial Court or to lower their authority.
4. Respondent No. 3 has filed his affidavit in reply and Mr. Vakil for respondents Nos. 2, 3, and 4 stated that this affidavit may be treated as a reply of all these three respondents. It was contended that respondent No. 1, who is a veteran trade unionist made a statement on 24th November, 1983 and that a summary of that statement was published as a news item after the statement was received by the newspaper. It was further alleged that the object of the statement of respondent No. 1 was to have a Judge of the High Court for investigating the matter. These respondents further contended that they had no intention to associate themselves with what respondent No. 1 has stated and that they had bona fide published the news item so that the readers should know what respondent No. 1 wanted to convey. It is further stated in the affidavit that the publication of the news item was not made with any intention to scandalize or tend to scandalize the Industrial Court. At the fag end of the affidavit, respondent No. 3 has stated that the respondents have no hesitation in expressing regrets for the publication if this Court would come to a conclusion that such publication constitutes a contempt of Court.
5. We would consider the case of respondents Nos. 2, 3 and 4 a little later, as, initially, we would like to consider the contentions of respondent No. 1. Section 2(c) of the Contempt of courts Act defines 'criminal contempt' as follows :---
' 'Criminal contempt' means the publication (whether by words spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which---
(i) Scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any Court; or
(ii) prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or
(iii) interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.'
It is needless to say that section 12 provides a punishment of simple imprisonment for six month or a fine upto two thousand rupees or both. Of course, the proviso to that section states that the accused may be discharged on apology being made to the satisfaction of the Court. Section 13 has made a provision as to in which cases a sentence can be imposed and it reads as follows :---
'Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, no Court shall impose a sentence under this Act for a contempt of Court unless it is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that it substantially interferes, or tends substantially to interfere with the due course of justice.'
At this juncture, it would also be convenient to refer to section 48 of the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971. That section deals with contempt of Industrial and Labour courts. Sub-section (5) provides that a person shall be deemed to be guilty of contempt of Court if he commits any act or publishes any writing which is calculated to improperly influence the Industrial Court or to bring such Court or a member or a Judge thereof into disrepute or contempt or to interfere with lawful process of any such Court. In case of such contempt the Industrial Court is required to make a report to the High Court and sub-section (3) provides that the High Court shall deal with such contempt as if it were contempt of itself.
6. Our attention has been drawn to various decisions of the Supreme Court in which the question of initiating or punishing a contempt of Court is considered. For example, in re. Under Art. 143, Constitution of India, A.I.R. 1883 S.C. 745, Gajendragadkar, C.J., has observed as follows in paragraph (143):---
'Before we part with this topic, we would like to refer to one aspect of the question relating to the exercise of power to punish for contempt. So far as the courts are concerned, Judges always keep in mind the warning addressed to them by Lord Atkin in Indre Paul v. Attornery General of Trinidad A.I.R. 1936 P.C. 141. Said Lord Atkin, 'Justice is not a cloistered virtue; she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful even though out-spoken comments of ordinary man.' We ought never to forget that the power to punish for contempt large so it is, must always be exercised cautiously, wisely and with circumspection. Frequent or indiscriminate use of this power in anger or irritation would not help to sustain the dignity or status of the Court, but may sometimes affect it adversely. Wise Judges never forget that the best way to sustain the dignity and status of their office is to deserve respect from the public at large by the quality of their judgments, the fearlessness, fairness and objectivity of their approach, and by the restraint, dignity and decorum which they observes in their judicial conduct. We venture to think that what is true of the judicature is equally true of the Legislature.'
This subject is also discussed by the Supreme Court in another case, In re S. Mulgaokar A.I.R. 1978 S.C. 727. The relevant portion of the head-note reads as follows :---
'The first rule in this branch of contempt power is a wise economy of use by the Court of this branch of its jurisdiction. The Court will act with seriousness and severity where justice is jeopardised by a gross and/or unfounded attack on the judges, where the attack is calculated to obstruct or destroy the judicial process. The Court is willing to ignore, by a majestic liberalism trifling and venial offences..............A happy balance has to be struck, the benefit of the doubt being given generously against the Judge alluring over marginal deviations but severally proving the supremacy of the law over pugnacious, vicious, unrepentant and malignant contemners, be they the powerful press, gang-up of vested interests, veteran colorists or olympian establishmentarians.
'The sixth consideration is that, after evaluating the totality of factors, if the Court considers the attack on the judge or judges scurrilous, offensive, intimidatory or malicious beyond condonable limits, in the strong arm of the law must, in the name of public interest and public justice strike, a blow on him who dislodges the supremacy of the rule of law by fouling its source and stream.'
7. It is not disputed on behalf of respondent No. 1 that the impugned statement made by him constitutes contempt of Court. Shri Rane submitted that the unconditional apology tendered by respondent No. 1 should be accepted and the matter be closed. He further submitted that all the surrounding circumstances may be taken into account while deciding whether the apology should be accepted or any punishment be inflicted. According to him, the courts and also the Tribunal like Industrial Tribunals are, so to say, cases in this country where there is corruption in all walks of life and that the democracy in this country is surviving because people have faith in the judiciary and these Tribunals. He further contended that respondent No. 1 was feeling that every thing was not all right in the Labour courts and he made a statement so that the matter may be investigated by the High Court. Shri Rane, therefore, submitted that in this background the apology offered by respondent No. 1 should be accepted.
8. It cannot be disputed that all the surrounding and attendant circumstances should be taken into account while initiating a contempt proceeding or while deciding upon the punishment. Mitigating circumstances would be relevant. At the same time, aggravating nature of the contempt cannot be lost sight of. Shri Rane was frank in stating that there cannot be any rigid rule that every contempt proceeding should be dropped as soon as an unconditional apology is tendered. Before considering the various circumstances urged by Shri Rane, let us consider and scrutinise the nature of the contempt. Is it technical or minor one Is it grave or serious? What would be its impact on the society? What would be the extent of that impact Whether the candalisation and the interference with the administration of justice is nominal or serious All this would be relevant and it has to be taken into account along with the various circumstances that are urged by Shri Rane. We would like to give anxious thoughts over all these considerations. The learned Advocate made their submissions with all fairness. Our approach would be to accept the apology if the matter is such where that course would be in the interests of justice. At the same time, we would be failing in our duty if necessary punishment is not awarded if the matter deserves any such punishment. We may also add that while considering this aspect, we are bearing in mind the above-mentioned principles laid down by the Supreme Court.
9. Let us see what respondent No. 1 intended to convey. We are forced to say that even a cursory reading of the statement would show that it is blatant contempt. The scandalisation is to the effect that the Labour courts and Industrial courts are institutions of corruption. Sweeping allegations are made that the judgments can be purchased as one is able to purchase articles in the bazar by offering a price. Another imputation is that the nature of relief which one may get from those courts would depend upon how much amount he pays to that officer. We are not able to imagine of any other type of contempt that can be more serious and grave than that we are having here. The statement does indicate a disregard to all decency. It would be very difficult for respondent No. 1 to contend that such a statement does not create an apprehension in the minds of the people about the honesty and integrity of the labour courts. The Advocate General submitted that it is this type of contempt about which we have to give a decision. Of course, he was frank enough in stating that as far as the sentence for this contempt is concerned, he would leave the matter to the Court.
10. It was contended by Shri Rane that the intention of respondent No. 1 in issuing the statement was to invite the attention of the High Court of Bombay about the corruption. He drew our attention to the fact that the statement shows that respondent No. 1 demanded an investigation at the hands of a High Court Judge. In our opinion, it will be too broad a proposition to contend that anybody can get away from even a gross contempt by prefixing a statement that an inquiry should be made. It would not be a correct approach to condone the contempt and that too a gross one simply because a statement of the above type is made. Shri Rane relied upon the decision of the Rajasthan High Court in the case of State of Rajasthan v. M.R. Mitruka . In that case the alleged contemner was the president of the Rajasthan Judicial Service Association. He addressed a representation to the Union Home Minister, Central Government, alleging corruption in the judiciary of Rajasthan. On the basis of this letter, contempt proceedings were initiated. The High Court held that in peculiar circumstances there was no contempt. One of the circumstances was that the respondent had drawn the attention of the authorities concerned to the deficiency or drawbacks in the working of the Anti-Corruption Department, not only that but he offered his co-operation in eliminating corruption. On account of these facts, it was held that the matter did not constitute contempt. Shri Rane frankly stated that he is not urging before this Court that there was no contempt, but he submitted that at any rate the communication of the type mentioned in the above case would be a bona fide communication and that a lenient view be taken by accepting the unconditional apology. It may be noted that in the above case the communication was sent to an authority which was expected to deal with the alleged corruption. In the present case, the respondent has not chosen to write any letter or representation to the appropriate authority. On the contrary, he has chosen to issue a press release and to send it to the press for wide circulation. At this juncture, we may refer to the decision of the Patna High Court in the case of State of Bihar v. Ranglal A.I.R. 1968 Pat 276. That was a case where a person alleging himself to be an officer of the Central Government wrote the District Judge charging certain subordinate Judges with blackmarketing and bribery. On the basis of that letter, contempt proceedings were initiated. The High Court held that such a letter was calculated to bring the Judge into contempt and to lower his authority and it also amounted to scandalising the Court or the Judge. Thus, though it was a communication to the higher officer, the Patna High Court has held that the contents of the letter constituted criminal contempt and for such contempt the contemner was ordered to undergo two months, simple imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs. 250/-, in default, to suffer further simple imprisonment for two months. The Rajasthan High Court had an occasion to consider this aspect earlier in the case of Sukhraj v. Hemraj, . The alleged contemner printed a pamphlet for circulation alleging that the Judges in delivering the judgment allowed themselves to be influenced by recommendations which had been made by rich and powerful quarters. Such a statement imputed both lack of integrity and impartiality. The High Court held that the publication of the pamphlet constituted criminal contempt. We would like to reproduce the relevant part of paragraph (18) of the judgment :
'We have further no hesitation in saying that any person of average intelligence who read this pamphlet could not fail to acquire the impression that the Judges of the High Court in Rajasthan are men of no character, integrity or independence and that administration of justice throughout the State can be purchased by bribery and/or influence. We should like to make it clear that it is not that these allegations affect us personally and we treat them with utter disdain which they deserve. But at the same time we feel that it is our duty to protect the administration of justice from such scurrilous attacks not in our self interest but in the interest of public administration of justice. It is for these reasons that we have come to the conclusion that an attempt like this must be suitably reprimanded and dealt with, and, therefore, we are constrained to hold that the passages to which we have drawn pointed attention and which we have discussed above amount to a clear contempt of Court.'
The question arose in this case as to whether tendering unconditional apology at the beginning of the hearing would be sufficient to drop the proceeding. In paragraph (20) the High Court has observed that it must be remembered that the apology is not a weapon of defence forged to purge the guilt under all circumstances nor can it be allowed to operate as a universal panacea. Of course, the High Court has held that the unconditional apology would be a circumstance for showing leniency in quantum of punishment. After taking into account the various factors, the High Court sentenced the contemner to pay a fine of Rs. 500/-. In the case of Ramakrishna Reddy v. State of Madras, : 1952CriLJ832 , the appellant published in his newspaper certain disparaging and defamatory statement about a particular Magistrate. In that statement it was further suggested that the Collector should inquire in the matter. Even with such a suggestion of an inquiry the Supreme Court found that the publication was a gross contempt. The High Court had punished the contemner to suffer simple imprisonment for three months. That was confirmed by the Supreme Court. While doing so the Supreme Court has observed that the contemner did not express any regrets either in the High Court or before the Supreme Court. It is thus clear that it would not be a correct proposition to say that a contempt is purged as soon as apology is tendered. Everything will depend upon the circumstances of each case. Of course, the fact that an unconditional apology has been offered would be one of the relevant circumstances. We have already observed that Shri Rane contended that by issuing this statement respondent No. 1 wanted an inquiry to be made by a High Court Judge. Such a prayer was also made in the case before the Supreme Court in Ramakrishna Reddy v. State of Madras : 1952CriLJ832 . We have stated earlier that a public statement of the type that we are now considering cannot lose its gravity by simply prefixing that statement with a suggestion that an inquiry be made. In our opinion, respondent No. 1 has not acted in good faith by issuing a public statement. The ordinary course which he could have adopted, if he was really keen on an inquiry, was to make a representation to the High Court and to avoid publicity about baseless and unfounded allegations of corruption.
11. It was next contended by Shri Rane that respondent No. 1 has not himself published that statement and that this would be an extenuating circumstance. In our opinion, this submission is absurd. Respondent No. 1 has done a greater harm by getting this statement published in the newspaper. It was rightly urged by Shri Kotwal that the mode of publication chosen by respondent No. 1 indicates that he intended to give wide publicity and that it was possible only by getting it published in the newspaper.
12. Thus, the only circumstance that can be said to be an extenuating circumstance is offering an unconditional apology. However, we have already observed that it is not in every case that the contemner can purge of the contempt by offering an unconditional apology. Everything will depend upon the facts of each case. If the contempt is of a technical type or if the contempt can be termed as not serious or grave, the Court is likely to accept the apology. In other cases, mere apology would not do.
13. We would like to consider a few authorities which were cited before us for the purpose of deciding the quantum of sentence. Shri Rane drew our attention to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Pushpaben v. Harandas, A.I.R. 1979 S.C. 1538. It was a case of a civil contempt for breach of undertaking. The Supreme Court considered section 12(3) of the Contempt of Court's Act and held that sentence of imprisonment in case of such contempt is an exception. Similar is the decision of the Patna High Court in the case of Gauri Shankar v. State of Bihar, 1973 Criminal Law Journal 137. That was also a case of civil contempt where a mere fine was imposed. Shri Kotwal frankly stated that in the case of civil contempt ordinary rule would be to impose a fine. Such a rule is there in view of the provisions of section 12(3) which reads as follows :---
'Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, where a person is found guilty of a civil contempt, the Court, if it considers that a fine will not meet the ends of justice and that a sentence of imprisonment is necessary shall, instead of sentencing him to simple imprisonment, direct that he be detained in a civil prison for such period not exceeding six months as it may think fit.'
These two decisions would not be of any use for the purpose of deciding the quantum of sentence for a criminal contempt. The next decision on which Shri Rane relied is in the case of Brahma Prakash v. State of U.P., : 1954CriLJ238 . The facts in that case were peculiar. Members of the bar had some grievance about the competency of two judicial officers and also about the method of their working. In the meeting of the Bar Association a resolution was passed expressing the view of the meeting that these officers were incompetent. The question arose as to whether this resolution would constitute contempt and what should be the punishment therefore. The Supreme Court held that there was no contempt. This was on account of various factors. In the first place, the meeting of the Executive Committee was held in canara. Secondly, the resolution was typed by the President himself and it was not recorded in the minute book. The resolution with a covering letter was sent to the District Magistrate marking that letter as confidential. In the letter a request was made to the District Magistrate to fix a date to meet the deputation of five members of the Bar Association. The Supreme Court held that the District Magistrate was the immediate superior of the concerned Magistrate. Taking into account all these factors and more particularly the manner in which the resolution was processed by the Bar Association, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that there was no contempt and that there was a remote possibility of the contents of the resolution getting a wide publicity. It may be material to note that before the Supreme Court the case was of a defamatory statement about the two Magistrates and the question was as to whether such defamatory statement would undermine the confidence of the public in the administration of justice. Such an aspect is not relevant whenever there is a case of ex facie contempt. We would like to reproduce the following observations in paragraph (19) of the judgment :---
'But, leaving out cases of 'ex facie' contempt, where the question arises as to whether a defamatory statement directed against a Judge is calculated to undermine the confidence of the public in the capacity or integrity of the Judge, or is likely to deflect the Court itself from a strict and unhesitating performance of its duties all the surrounding facts and circumstances under which the statement was made and the degree of publicity that was given to it would undoubtedly be relevant circumstances. It is true as the learned Counsel for the respondent suggest that the matter was discussed in the present case among the members of the Bar, and it might have been the subject-matter of discussion amongst the officers also to whom copies of the resolutions were sent. No doubt, there was publication as is required by the law of libel, but in contempt proceedings, that is not by any means conclusive. What is material is the nature and extent of the publication and whether or not it was likely to have an injurious effect on the minds of the public or of the judiciary itself and thereby lead to interference with the administration of justice.'
It would not be out of place to mention here that the present case is of ex facie contempt. The entire Labour Court judiciary is pointed as a corrupt judiciary. Thus, there was no allegation against any particular Judge so as to defame him. Apart from that, in the present case, the degree of publicity was extensive, inasmuch as respondent No. 1 intended to publish the matter in a well-known daily newspaper viz., the 'Times of India'. Shri Rane relied upon the observations of the Supreme Court that if at all there was any contempt it was only of a technical character and that the proceeding should have been dropped. This decision is not applicable to the facts of the present case.
14. Reliance is placed on the decision of the Calcutta High Court in re. Suit No. 1947 of 1982, : AIR1959Cal174 . In our opinion, this decision goes against the submissions made by Shri Rane. The head-note of the case reads as follows :---
'A person who addresses a letter to the Chief Justice, requesting him to intercede with the trial Judge to delay the judgment so as to give time to the defendant who is in distressed circumstances, to manage to settle up the claim, and causes it to be delivered to the Chief Justice, is guilty of a contempt of the High Court.'
In that case, apology was not accepted by making the following observations in paragraph (6) :---
'..............The fact that he has tendered an unqualified apology has to be taken into consideration in deciding what punishment we should order for this contempt. I am unable to accept Mr. Sen's submission that the apology offered by him washes out all guilt and that no punishment need be inflicted. It seems necessary not, as I have said earlier for the protection of this Court but for the protection or all those who seek justice here that a grave contempt of this nature should be punished..................'
After making these observations, the contemner was fined Rs. 100/-. The next case to which a reference may be made is Advocate General, Bihar v. M.P. Khair Industries, : 1980CriLJ684 . It was a case where the contemner had made applications after applications in order to avoid and evade the operation of certain pervious orders of the Court. The question that arose was as to whether this conduct would be a criminal contempt. The Supreme Court held that it would be such a criminal contempt. As far as the punishment is concerned, the matter is discussed in paragraph 12 in the following words :---
'We are satisfied that the filing of the application dated December 14, 1972, was an abuse of the process of the Court calculated to obstruct the due course of a judicial proceeding and the administration of justice and was, therefore, a criminal contempt of Court. The respondents had expressed an unconditional apology to the Patna High Court, but we are convinced that the conduct of the respondents is so reprehensible as to warrant condemnation by the imposition of a sentence. We accordingly allow the appeal and sentence each of the respondents to pay a fine of Rs. 500/-, in default to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of two weeks.'
15. It may be noted that the contempt as was available in the above case would not be so grave or serious as we are dealing in the present proceeding and in that background it would be very difficult for us to close the matter by accepting the unconditional apology. At this stage, we would also like to refer to another decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Asharam M. Jain v. A.T. Gupta A.I.R. 1983 S.C. 1951. In a special leave petition, Asharam M. Jain made serious allegations against the Chief Justice of the High Court and the other Judge who together constituted a Division Bench and had heard the matter in the High Court. It was held that the contumacious disregard of all decencies exhibited by the contemner can lead to serious disturbance of system or administration of justice. The contemner had expressed his unconditional apology before the Supreme Court. While deciding the quantum of sentence, the Supreme Court has observed as follows in paragraph 8 :---
'..............The Court has the duty of protecting the interest of the public in the due administration of justice and so, it is entrusted with power to commit for contempt of Court, not in order to protect the dignity of the Court against insult or injury as the expression 'Contempt of Court' may seem to suggest, but, to protect and to vindicate the right of the public that the administration of justice shall not be prevented, prejudiced, obstructed or interfered with. 'It is a mode of vindicating the majesty of law, in its active manifestation against obstruction and outrage'. 'The law should not be seen to sit by limply, while those who defy it go free, and those who seek its protection lose hope'. So we approach the question not from the point of view of the Judge whose honour and dignity require to be vindicated, but from the point of view of the public who have entrusted to us the task of due administration of justice. Having given our utmost consideration, we have come to the conclusion that it is not open to us to accept the easy and ready solution suggested by Mr. R.K. Garg' of accepting the apology and imposing a fine. We think that a contumacious disregard of all decencies, such as, that exhibited by the contemner in this case can only lead to a serious disturbance of the system of administration of justice, unless duly repaired at once by inflicting an appropriate punishment on the contemner which must be to send him to Jail to atone for his misconduct and thereafter to come out of prison a chastened but a better citizen. We accordingly sentence him to suffer simple imprisonment for a period of two months.'
Shri Rane also drew our attention to the A.I.R. 10 Man Fou 525, wherein a case before Rajasthan High Court reported in 1980 Rajashtan Law Weekly 230 has been digested in the following words :-
'The allegation that 'justice is sold' or 'justice is auctioned' by judiciary, is not only serious, but heinous type of scandalising the Court. Although such a serious and grave contempt deserves to be punished with deterrent punishment of imprisonment of maximum term of 6 months, but when the unconditional apology had been tendered and the contemner was really repentant of his action, and no effort was made at all to plead any justification or to raise controversy of the fact, ends of justice were thought to be met by punishing the contemner with a fine of Rs. 100/- only, in addition to acceptance of apology.'
We must make it clear that Shri Rane relied upon the above observations mainly for the purpose of contending that in case apology alone is not to be accepted a sentence of fine would meet the ends of justice.
16. We are conscious of the fact that section 13 of the Contempt of Courts Act has laid down that a sentence shall not be inflicted unless the Court is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that it substantially interferes or tends substantially to interfere with due course of justice. We have already observed that in the present case the respondent No. 1 has not made any defamatory allegation about a particular Judge. In case of such declamatory statements, it would definitely be necessary to find out whether it interferes or tends substantially to interfere with due course of justice. Of course, such a requirement would we necessary even when a statement is per se of contempt. To tarnish the entire personnel of the Labour courts as a machinery of corruption would undoubtedly interfere with due course of justice.
17. In view of the above discussion and particularly after taking into account the grave and serious contempt committed by respondent No. 1., we think that it will not be correct to close the matter by accepting the apology of respondent No. 1. In addition to that apology, there must be a sentence. We do not intend to be too harah. At the same time, we do not propose to be too lenient. We think that the interests of justice would be met if respondent No. 1 is sentenced to suffer imprisonment till the rising of the Court and to pay a fine of Rs. 5000/-, in default to suffer simple imprisonment for two weeks.
18. It will now be necessary to consider the case against respondents Nos. 2, 3 and 4. As stated in paragraph 4 above, the contention of these respondents is that the press release that was issued by respondent No. 1 was published bona fide and that the respondent had no intention to commit any contempt. Shri Vakil contended that all that respondent Nos. 2 to 4 have done is to publish a summary of the report without they themselves identifying with the correctness or otherwise of the statement of respondent No. 1. He argued that publishing of a statement previously made by respondent No. 1 would not be a contempt though the statements of respondent No. 1 may be a contempt. He also submitted that the summary of the statement of respondent No. 1 has been published in usual course of business and that in that background respondent Nos. 2 to 4 cannot be said to have committed contempt. In our opinion, this contention is not well founded. Shri Kotwal relied upon the decision of the Patna High Court in the case of the State of Bihar v. Shri Anant Prasad & Another I.L.R. (1975) Pat 358. There also, a newspaper published as a news item the contents of certain statement made by another person. That statement constituted contempt and the question arose as to whether the editor of the newspaper was guilty. It was held that in publishing the news item the editor had committed contempt. Such a question has also arisen before the Allahabad High Court in the case of G.H. Verma v. Hargovind Dayal A.I.R. 1978 All 52. The Bar Association passed a resolution, the contents of which constituted criminal contempt. A news item about the passing of such type of resolution appeared in a newspaper and the question was as to whether the printer and publisher of the newspaper would be guilty of contempt by publication of the news item. The observations in paragraphs 45 and 48 of the judgment would show that the printer and publisher would be so guilty. We, therefore, hold that respondents Nos. 2, 3 and 4 have committed contempt of Court.
19. The next question is as to what order should be passed about this contempt by respondents Nos. 2, 3 and 4. In his affidavit, respondent No. 3 has expressed his regret for the publication. That regret is preceded by a plea that these respondents have not committed any contempt. But Explanation to section 12 says that such an apology should not be rejected merely because it is a qualified and conditional one. Of course, it is necessary that the apology should be a bona fide one. Shri Vakil submitted that the news item appeared in the Times of India in the ordinary course when the press release was issued by respondent No. 1. It is true that respondents Nos. 2 to 4 should have been a little more cautious in scrutinising as to whether that report contained any statement which would constitute of Court. But at the same time we do not feel that there should be any punishment for absence of such carefulness, particularly when those respondents have offered an apology.
20. For all these reasons, rule is made absolute to the extent mentioned below :---
Respondent No. 1 is held guilty for the contempt of Court and is sentenced to suffer simple imprisonment till the rising of the Court and to pay a fine of Rs. 500/-, in default, to suffer simple imprisonment for two weeks. Respondents Nos. 2 to 4 are held guilty of contempt of Court. However, they are discharged, as they have offered an apology to the satisfaction of this Court as contemplated by proviso to section 12(1).
21. At this stage, Shri Rane for respondent No. 1 submitted that respondent No. 1 intends to prefer an appeal to the Supreme Court and that with a view to enable him to file an appeal and apply for stay orders, it would be in the interest of justice if the sentence inflicted on respondent No. 1 is suspended for some reasonable period. Both the sentences viz., simple imprisonment till the rising of the Court and the fine of Rs. 500/- are suspended till 8th May, 1984.