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Y.V. Hanumantha Rao Vs. K.R. Pattabhiram and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContempt of Court
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberContempt Case No. 28 of 1973
Judge
Reported inAIR1975AP30
ActsContempt of Courts Act, 1971 - Sections 3
AppellantY.V. Hanumantha Rao
RespondentK.R. Pattabhiram and anr.
Advocates:M.B. Rama Sarma and ;Krishnamohan, Advs.
DispositionPetition dismissed
Excerpt:
.....curfew illegal and unlawful - based on article 'the law of curfew' discussing academic meaning of curfew published - article had no reference either express or implied to pending case and did not effect trial - held, taking in view freedom of expression and freedom of press, article not said to cause any contempt of court. - motor vehicles act (59 of 1988)section 149 (2): [v. gopala gowda & jawad rahim, jj] insurers entitlement to defend the action joint appeal by insured and insurer - held, the language employed in enacting sub-section (2) of section 149 appears to be plain and simple and there is no ambiguity in it. it shows that when an insurer is impleaded and has been given notice of the case, it is entitled to defend the action only on grounds enumerated in sub-section (2) of..........a speech tending to influence the result of pending trial, whether civil or criminal is a grave contempt comments on pending proceedings, if emanating from parties or their lawyers are generally a more serious contempt than those coming from independent sources. the question in all cases of comment on pending proceedings is not whether the publication does interfere, with the due course of justice. the question is not so much of the intention of the contemner as whether it is calculated to interfere with the administration of justice.'9. if we read the impugned article in the light of what is stated above, it will immediately be plain that the article makes no reference either expressly or even by necessary implication to the pending case in the court. it does not likewise make any.....
Judgment:

Gopal Rao Ekbote, C.J.

1. We have an application before us requesting to punish the respondents for contempt. It arises in the following circumstances.

2. The petitioner herein filed a Writ Petition No. 823 of 1973 on 6-2-1973, contending inter alia that during the recent agitation for a separate An-dhra State, curfew was imposed in the Town of Viiayawada from 6-1-1973 to 10-1-1973 and later on from 21-1-1973 to 24-1-1973 at specified hours. He therefore alleged that the imposition of curfew was without the authority of law and that the District Magistrate, Krishna very arbitrarily, capriciously and without following the procedure of law ordered the imposition of curfew which has disastrous consequences. It was therefore prayed that a declaration be made that the orders of curfew on the above dates issued by the District Magistrate. Krishna are without the authority of law, illegal and unconstitutional.

3. Pending the writ petition, W. P. M. P. No. 1012 of 1973 for restraining the District Magistrate from imposing curfew was sought. This Court, however although admitted the writ petition for hearing, directed notice to be given, No interim direction, however, was issued.

4. While the writ petition was pending, the 2nd respondent, Sri F. See-thapathi, Secretary, Board of Revenue, Commercial Taxes, appears to have contributed an article to a Daily 'Deccan Chronicle', the 1st respondent being its editor. This article was entitled 'the law of curfew'. It was published in the Dec-can Chronicle of 28-2-1973. In that article the 2nd respondent discussed what is meant by curfew and what is the legal authority behind imposing an order of curfew. He then refers to the origin of the word 'curfew' and makes references to its historical background. Considering Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the author then makes reference to various provisions of law.

5. In this petition, it is alleged that the said article amounts to contempt of Court and therefore the respondents should be punished.

6. Now, the law on contempt is well settled. When litigation is pending before a Court, no one shall comment on it in such a way there is a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial of the action, as for instance by influence on the Judge, the witnesses or by prejudicing mankind in general against a party to the cause. Even if the person making the comment honestly believes it to be true, still it is a contempt of Court if he prejudices the truth before it is as-certained in the proceedings. To this general rule of fair trial one may adda further rule and that is that none shall, by misrepresentation or otherwise, bring unfair pressure to bear on one of the parties to a cause so as to force him to drop his complaint or defence. It is always regarded as of the first importance that the law which we have just stated should be maintained in its full integrity. But in so stating the law we must bear in mind that there must appear to be 'a real and subs-tantial danger of prejudice'.

7. It must also be remembered that our law of contempt does not prevent comment before the litigation is started nor after it has ended. So long as the commentators get their facts right and keep their comments fair, they are without reproach. They do not offend against the law as to contempt of Court unless there is real and substantial prejudice to pending litigation before the Court Matters of public interest, particularly academic questions which have no reference to a pending litigation but are of a general educative character, no person can stop such comment by serving a writ See Attorney-General v. Times Newspapers Ltd., (1973) 2 WLR 452 at p. 460.

8. In re P. C. Sen, : 1970CriLJ1525 , Shah, J., who spoke for the Court, if we may say so, succinctly put the law. He observed:

'the law relating to contempt of the Court is well settled. Any act done or writing published which is calculated to bring a Court or a Judge into contempt, or to lower his authority, or to interfere with the due course of justice or the lawful process of the Court is a contempt of Court R. v. Gray, (1900) 2 QB 36 at p. 40. Contempt by speech or writing may be by scandalising the Court itself, or by abusing parties to actions, or by prejudicing the mankind in favour or against a party before the cause is heard. It is incumbent upon Courts of justice to preserve their proceedings from being misrepresented, from prejudicing the minds of the public against persons concerned as parties in causes before the cause is finally heard and has pernicious consequences. Speeches or writing misrepresenting the proceedings of the Court or prejudicing the public for or against a party or involving reflections on parties to a proceeding amount to contempt To make a speech tending to influence the result of pending trial, whether civil or criminal is a grave contempt Comments on pending proceedings, if emanating from parties or their lawyers are generally a more serious contempt than those coming from independent sources. The question in all cases of comment on pending proceedings is not whether the publication does interfere, with the due course of justice. The question is not so much of the intention of the contemner as whether it is calculated to interfere with the administration of justice.'

9. If we read the impugned article in the light of what is stated above, it will immediately be plain that the article makes no reference either expressly or even by necessary implication to the pending case in the Court. It does not likewise make any reference either to the parties to the litigation or to the question referred to in the writ petition. We therefore, fail to see how that article can be characterised as calculated to bring a court or a Judge into contempt or it amounts to interfering with the course of justice. It does not, in our opinion, appear to cause a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the hearing of the writ petition in this Court. The pending case before this court is in no manner even remotely affected. The mankind is not prejudiced against a party to the litigation in this Court or the advocates appearing therein. In fact the article has absolutely no bearing upon the case pending in this Court but it merely discussed academically the meaning of 'curfew' and under what provisions of law it is imposed. The scope and the implication of curfew are sought to be brought out in the article in the pure academic way. It will be too much to read in that article something sinister trying to connect with the case which is pending. We are therefore satisfied that the article in no manner tends to interfere with the due course of justice.

10. In spite of our repeated requests, the learned Advocate for the petitioner was not in a position to point out any portion of the article which would connect the article to the writ petition filed by the petitioner. In fact except the academic consideration of the question, it makes no reference whatsoever even in innuendo to any pending case. It will be extraordinary if we consider academic writings on different questions of law regarding which several cases would always be pending in different courts of law as amounting to contempt of court. Freedom of expression coupled with the freedom of press must always be kept in view while considering such questions. When considering the question of contempt, it must always be borne in mind that besides the interest of the parties in a fair trial of the case, there is another important interest to be considered. It is the interest of the public in matters of general concern and the freedom of the press and that of an individual to make fair comment on such matters. The one interest must be balanced against the other. There may be cases where subject-matter is such that the public interest counter-balances the private interest of the parties. In such cases, the public interest prevails. Fair comment is to be allowed. It has been so stated in (1973)2 WLR 452 at p. 460.

11. The Courts while they would try to preserve the rights of the parties or the witnesses appearing therein from being attacked till the disposal of the pending case, they are not so sensitive as to even consider academic writings as interfering with the administration of justice. We are therefore clear in our mind that the impugned article in no manner affects the pending case and it does not appeal to us to cause a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial of writ petition and consequently the respondents do not seem to have committed any contempt.

12. We therefore dismiss the contempt petition.


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