1. C. Natarajan, an Advocate, enrolled in this High Court, had sent a communication, dated 2-12-1953, to Hon'ble the Chief Justice entitled 'Dictators' forwarding copies of this communication for favour of kind information and necessary action to:
(1) Hon'ble Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India,
(2) Hon'ble Shri Kailashnath Katju, Home Minister, Government of India,
(3) Hon'ble Sir Mir Osman Ali Khan, Rajpramukh, Hyderabad state, and
(4) Shri K. S. Naik, Chairman of the Anti-corruption Committee, Hyderabad-Deccan.
This communication being a prima facie contempt, notice was ordered to be issued to him to show cause why proceedings should not be taken against him under Contempt of Courts Act, 1952, as also otherwise.
2. In reply to this notice, Natarajan filed a petition tendering an unqualified apology for writing such a letter This petition which is signed by him and presented through his Counsel is in the following terms:
In answer to the notice No. dated ....'53, Your applicant most humbly and respectfully submits:
1. That, at the time your applicant wrote the letter complained against, your applicant did not realise that the said letter would amount to contempt of Court and your applicant had taken no legal advice in the matter.
2. That, at the time your applicant wrote the said letter, your applicant had no desire to bring any honourable Court down in public esteem.
3. That, your applicant has the highest regard and greatest esteem for the Hon'ble Chief Justice of this Hon'ble High Court & offers His Lordship through this Hon'ble Court his sincere apology for any inconvenience caused by the said unfortunate letter.
4. That, at the time your applicant wrote the said letter, he never intended nor does he intend to cast any the slightest doubt or aspersion against the honest and fair manner in which His Lordship the Chief Justice is pleased to impart justice.
5. That your applicant craves permission to tender his unqualified apologies for writing the said letter.
3. The Counsel for Natarajan submitted that inasmuch as his client had tendered an unqualified apology he should be discharged and took time to cite authorities in support of his contention. On the adjourned hearing of the case, he cited no decisions but contented himself merely by leaving it to the Court to determine the matter.
4. Section 4, Contempt of Courts Act (No. 32) of 1952, provides for the purging of contempt by an apology acceptable to the Court. It is, however, for the Court to consider whether an unconditional apology is the result of a penitent heart, evidencing a real contrition and tendered unreservedly at the earliest opportunity which in the circumstances of the case having regard to the nature of the contempt, is considered worthy of acceptance. It cannot be gainsaid that where the contempt is of a grave nature, the party in contempt may be punished in spite of the apology tendered; in other words except where Courts are scandalised or scurrilous attacks are made on Judges and administration of justice, an unconditional apology made unreservedly at the first opportunity with a view to sincerely purge that contempt : is generally accepted.
5. The communication addressed to Hon'ble the Chief Justice is in the following terms:
Strange event in the strange land of Hyderabad State shall go down in history as great landmarks in setting up petty dictators and petty chiefs. The H. E. H. the Nizam, after the demise of Maharaja Kishen Pershad, had been importing outsiders as his ministers. These ministers brought in their wake untold miseries to the inhabitants of this part of the country. Adding to the helplessness of the Nizam, the British Residents played their own role in wrecking the integrity of the State. Within three decades, the stronghold of the governance of this compact state tottered fast. It did so in the short span of time. It came to rack and ruin. The culminating point was the Police Action. American Constitution boasts of the application of Police Action in her States during periods of unrest; but the people of Hyderabad have gone down on their knees before it wailing bitterly.
This reminds me of a fable in Assops. The frogs in a tank prayed their God Jupitor for a king to rule them over. The Lord Jupitor threw from heavens a log of wood for their king in the waters. The frogs were jubilant over the coming of their King log. For days, the frogs offered homage to this king, but the king would neither move nor command. The frogs got vexed; and prayed their God Jupitor again for a better king. Very soon King Stork jumped into the water. Every day he began devouring a number of frogs. This story well applies to the people of Hyderabad. Many of such Stork Pedagogues have come to boss us over. We have seen the rule of General Choudhari, Vellodis and now Misras. All the High Courts in India have their own local Chief Justices but pity, a thousand pities, Hyderabad State had to import an outsider. Our maddening leaders have been scrambling for their booty. Job hunters they are. In this medley of things Mr. Misra is gloating over his dictatorship. He is an autocrat, a ruler. He feels he has come as a conqueror to this land. Well, he is General Jaffery of Irish fame.
I lived in Lahore (Pakistan) for twenty years practising Law in the High Court. Even after partition I remained there in Pakistan till the end of 1949 A.D. In 1948, a bill regarding the inheritance of Muslim women was on the anvil of the Legislative Assembly. Muslim women were against it, and they in hundreds picketed the Assembly. Section 144, I.P.C. was promulgated. The ladies were cordoned and arrested. They were the next day produced in the High Court before Chief Justice, Sir Abdul Rashid. The glass panes of the doors and the windows of the High Court were smashed. The women rushed to the Bench, from where Chief Justice was presiding. The ladies threw orange peels at him. Sir Rashid sat calm and quiet. He would not budge an inch. The women felt the gravity of the situation and they drew back. But, O God, Mr. Misra pops up every moment from his seat like a Soda Water bottle cork. God help him.
A month back, Hon'ble Shri K. Katju, Home Minister, Delhi, addressed lawyers of this High Court. He caricatured the Judges in general. I wondered then and said to myself 'Cari such things happen?' But now I am enlightened and find in Mr. Misra what Hon'ble Katju said then.
When new shoe pinches one thinks of the old one. I think of late Chief Justice R. S. Naik. He was at least kind and considerate. Cah such a thing be expected of an outsider? A thousand times No. Let our people understand. Lord God, lead kindly light to the Hyderabadis grovelling in the dark.
6. We now propose first to examine the law in so far as it relates to personal attack on Judges, and then examine the communication referred to, to see whether the whole or any of it amounts to contempt and if so whether the nature of the contempt and the manner in which the apology is tendered are such that it should be accepted as sufficient to purge the contempt.
7. In - 'Queen v. Gray', 1900-2 QB 36 (A), Lord Russel, Chief Justice, said:
Any act done or writing published calculated to bring a Court or a Judge of the Court into contempt or to lower his authority is a contempt of Court; that is one class of contempt. Further, any act done or writing published calculated to obstruct or interfere with the due course of justice or the lawful process of the Courts is a contempt of Court. The former class belongs to the category which Lord Harwicke L. C. characterised as 'scandalising a Court of a Judge'.
In this country, Mookerjee, J., in the matter of Tarit Kanti Biswas' AIR 1918 Cal 988 at p. 1013 (SB) (B), laid down the law in the following passage:
It is not necessary for our present purpose to give exhaustive enumeration of acts which amount to contempts of Courts. It is sufficient to state that scandalous attacks upon Judges calculated to cause an obstruction to public justice, do constitute such contempts....
After a review of cases, the learned Judge observed at p. 1014:
The principle deducible from these cases is that punishment is inflicted for attacks of this character upon Judges, not with a view to protect either the Court as a whole or the individual Judges of the Court from a repetition of the attack but with a view to protect the public and specially those who voluntarily or by compulsion are subject to the jurisdiction of the Court, from the mischief they will incur, if the authority of the Tribunal be undermined or impaired....
In the matter of 'Tusharkanti Ghosh' AIR 1935 Cal 419 at p. 427 (FB) (C) the following passage in a newspaper was held to be a personal and scurrilous attack on a Judge as a Judge:
It is so unfortunate and regrettable that at the present day the Chief Justice and the Judges find a peculiar delight in hobnobbing with the Executive with the result that the judiciary is robbed of its independence which at one time attracted the admiration of the whole country.
In dealing with the question as to what would and would not amount to contempt, their Lordships of the Supreme Court in - 'Brahma Prakash v. State of Uttar Pradesh' : 1954CriLJ238 , observed at pp. 13 and 14:..That there are two primary considerations which should weigh with the Court when it is called upon to exercise the summary powers in cases of contempt committed by 'scandalising' the Court itself. In the first place, the reflection oh the conduct or character of a Judge in reference to the discharge of his judicial duties, would not be contempt if such reflection is made in the exercise of the right of fair and reasonable criticism which every citizen possesses in respect of public acts done in the seat of justice. It is not by stifling criticism that confidence in Courts can be created.
In the second place when attacks or comments are made on a Judge or Judges, disparaging in character and derogatory to their dignity, care . should be taken to distinguish between what is libel on the Judge and what amounts really to contempt of Court. The fact that a statement is defamatory so far as the Judge Is concerned does not necessarily make it a contempt.
8. It is clear from their Lordships' observations that where the publication of the disparaging statement is calculated to interfere with the due course of justice or proper administration of law by such Court, it can be punished summarily as contempt. One is a wrong done to the Judge personally while the other is a wrong done to the public. It will be an injury to the public if it tends to create an apprehension in the minds of the people regarding the integrity, ability or fairness of the Judge or to deter actual and prospective litigants from placing complete reliance upon the Court's administration of justice, or if it is likely to cause embarrassment in the minds of the Judge himself in the discharge of his judicial duties.
9. It goes without saying that the aforesaid communication is scurrilous and extremely offensive. There was no apparent reason in writing such a letter and giving copies to the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Government of India, the Rajpramukh of Hyderabad and Shri R. S. Naik, retired Chief Justice except that it was with a view to scandalise the Chief Justice. We are pained to see that such a communication was addressed by a member of the Bar to which both of us have the honour to belong & which has maintained very high traditions of propriety, decorum & courtesy. Natarajan seems to be obsessed with the idea that an outsider was deputed as Chief Justice and it was a thousand pities that Hyderabad had to Import an outsider and while the maddening leaders who are job hunters are scrambling for their booty, Mr. Misra who is an autocrat, a ruler, a General Jaffrey of Irish fame, is gloating over his dictatorship and feels that he has come as a conqueror.
10. The other passages, it will be observed, deal with the manner in which the Chief Justice performs his judicial functions in Court. His Lordship's behaviour is contrasted with the calm and serene attitude of Chief Justice of Lahore, Pakistan, Natarajan further attributes certain statements alleged to have been made by Dr. Katju, the Home Minister of Government of India, caricaturing Judges in general regarding which he wondered & asked himself 'can such things happen', but now he finds in Mr. Misra what Mr. Katju said then. In the last paragraph which is more scurrilous he says that when the new shoe pinches we think of the old one and then mentions the name of the ex-Chief Justice, Shri R. S. Naik about whom he condescends to observe that he was 'at least kind and considerate'.
11. In an integrated and independent judicial system such as has been given to the people of India by our Constitution for administration of justice and particularly with a view to adjudicating upon fundamental rights, we are clear in our minds that there is no room for any parochial or narrow local loyalty when the appointing authorities under the Constitution consider any appointment to the High Court to be in the greater interests of the judiciary.
12. There is, in our view, no doubt that the communication is a gross contempt and the learned Counsel for Natarajan made no attempt to justify either the contents or the manner in which it was addressed except to say that his client is contrite and is really sorry for what he has done. We, therefore, hold C. Natarajan to be guilty of the contempt of Court.
(ORDER PASSED BY THE COURT)
13. You, C. Natarajan, have been found by this Court to have committed a gross contempt by your communication dated 2-12-1953 addressed to the Hon'ble the Chief Justice of this Court, copied to the Prime Minister, Home Minister of Government of India and others. As we have already observed we take a very serious view of this contempt coming as it does from a Member of the Bar. According to your own showing, you have to your credit 22 years' practice at the bar, and you cannot, therefore, be unaware of the function and duties of an Advocate to the Court and to the cause of Justice. No doubt, the apology you have submitted is unconditional and unreserved, and we are impressed by it more particularly, when your Counsel was trying to address us on certain aspects of the case, you stopped him and instructed him to leave it to the mercy of the Court. In these circumstances, the punishment which we would have awarded haying regard to the serious nature of the contempt is to some extent mitigated. It is not our design or purpose either to be vindictive or unreasonable. But we must keep in mind the greater interest of the judiciary and the public not so much of the personal affront to Individual Judge or Chief Justice as the public wrong that a contempt of this nature involves. It is our duty to see that such attempts are sup-pressed in the Interests of the judiciary. It may not be inappropriate to cite the weighty words of Kent C. J. in - 'Yates v. Lanslngh' (1809) 5 Johnson's Reports 282 (B):
We subdue their importance and destroy their authority. Instead of being venerable before the public, they become contemptible; and we thereby embolden the licentious to trample upon everything sacred in society and overthrow those institutions which have hitherto been deemed the best guardians of civil liberty.
14. Inasmuch as you have submitted an apology as aforesaid at the very first opportunity and have thrown yourself at the mercy of the Court, we do not desire to award any severe sentence which we would have otherwise been inclined to. We, how-ever, consider that it will be sufficient if we order you to pay a fine of Rs. 50/- which we do, and give you time till Monday 8-2-4954, by 2 P.M., failing which you will serve a sentence of ten days' Imprisonment or until the fine is paid.