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Advocate General, Andhra Pradesh Vs. D. Seshagiri Rao - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContempt of Court
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberContempt Case No. 5 of 1965
Reported inAIR1966AP167; 1966CriLJ642
ActsContempt of Courts Act, 1952 - Sections 3 and 4; Judicial Officers Protection Act, 1850 - Sections 1
AppellantAdvocate General, Andhra Pradesh
RespondentD. Seshagiri Rao
Appellant AdvocateAdv. General
Respondent AdvocateP.S.T. Sayee, Adv. for ;D. Suryaprakasarao and ;A. Satyanarayanarao, Advs.
DispositionPetition allowed
contempt of court - allegations amounting to contempt - sections 3 and 4 of contempt of courts act, 1850 - advocate general filed petition against respondent under contempt of courts act alleged scurrilous attacks made against additional sessions judge - allegations as to incompetency and judicial dishonesty ex-facie amounted to contempt of court - such attacks badly impair judicial administration and destroy confidence of people in courts - truth of imputation is no defense in contempt proceedings - held, fine rightly imposed. - - he alleged that he did not impute incompetence, but bias against him (the respondent) and in favour of the salt officers, who filed the case against him in revenge for his publishing the telugu pamphlet dated 14-1-1962. the respondent gave a number of.....venkatesam, j.1. the advocate general, andhra pradesh, has filed this petition against d. seshagirirao, the respondent herein, for action under sections 3, 4 and 5 of the contempt of courts act. the respondent is said to have committed contempt of court by reason of the scurrilous attacks which he made against the additional sessions judge, rajahmundry, and thr judicial second class magistrate, kakinada in the letters which he addressed to them on 30-10-1964.2. in order to appreciate the points at issue, it may he necessary to state a feu facts.3. the respondent filed a criminal com-plaint against the officials of gurazanapalli salt factory, near kakinada in east godavari district under sections 447, 506 and 500 i. p c. and section 22-d of the central excises and salt act, no. i of 1944.....

Venkatesam, J.

1. The Advocate General, Andhra Pradesh, has filed this petition against D. Seshagirirao, the respondent herein, for action under Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Contempt of Courts Act. The respondent is said to have committed contempt of court by reason of the scurrilous attacks which he made against the Additional Sessions Judge, Rajahmundry, and thr Judicial Second Class Magistrate, Kakinada in the letters which he addressed to them on 30-10-1964.

2. In order to appreciate the points at issue, it may he necessary to state a feu facts.

3. The respondent filed a criminal com-plaint against the officials of Gurazanapalli Salt Factory, near Kakinada in East Godavari District under Sections 447, 506 and 500 I. P C. and Section 22-D of the Central Excises and Salt Act, No. I of 1944 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'), alleging that without any manner of justification they trespassed upon the land (salt pan). and prevented him from manufacturing salt for a day. He claimed title to the land, and also contended that he was under no obligation to take a licence from the department for manufacturing salt on the ground that no notification was issued by the Government to that effect in respect of the land in question The trial Magistrate held that the salt officials committed the acts alleged in the exercise of their duty and that no injury had been caused to the respondent, and acquitted the accused Against thr judgment of acquittal, the respondent carried the matter in appeal to this court in Criminal Appeal No. 266 of 1962, Sharfuddin Ahmed. J., in his judgment dated of 16-10-1962, observed that the public prosecutor conceded that no notification under Section 6 of the Act had been issued requiring a licence to be taken even in the case of small scale manufacture of salt Even so, it was argued on behalf of the Department before the learned Judge that according to the lease deed executed by the respondent in favour of the salt officials, he was prevented from subletting, and as the officers honestly thought that the respondent had sublet, they thought they had to prevent the complainant from manufacturing the salt. The learned Judge found that the respondent was in possession of the land and manufacturing salt for quite a long period. that he also executed a lease in favour of the department in 1953, and that the lease was be ing acted upon The officers gave notice to the respondent and sought the help of the police in order to prevent manufacture of salt as they believed that the respondent sublet the pan, and they acted bona fide in the discharge of their duties They did not bear any grudge towards the respondent and were not interested in dispossessing him or inducting some other person, and soon after the police refused to interfere in the matter, the department withdrew then peons from the site, and the work was not stopped for more than a day. The learned Judge, therefore, held that there was no criminal intention on the part of the officers when they entered upon the property, and that they were not liable for an offence under Section 447 1. P. C., and con-finned the judgment of the Magistrate.

4. Even during the pendency of Criminal Appeal 266 of 1961, The salt factory officer, Guruzatiapalli. filed C. C. No. 834 of 1962 on the file of the Additional Judicial II Class Magistrate, Kakinada, against the respondent on the ground that he contravened Section 6 of the Act, read with Rule 102 of the Rules made thereunder, and that he committed an offence punishable under Section 9 of the Act. The case of the Department was that in respect of survey No. 5, under platform No. II, measuring about Ac. 3-00 in Gurazannapalli salt factory, the respondent was granted a licence on 28-7-1943 by the Central Government to manufacture salt from 1-1-1943 to 31-12-1967, by a registered sale deed, but the same was terminated with effect from 30-6-61 by means of a registered notice. Thereafter, in the month of January 1962. the respondant manufactured salt in that land with hired labour, contravening the above provisions of law. The Magistrate, by his judgment dated 6-9-1962, found the respondent guilty, and sentenced him to pay a fine of Rs. 100/-, or in default to suffer simple imprisonment for six weeks.

5. Against that judgment, an appeal was preferred to the Court of Sessions Judge, Rajah-mundry, which was transferred to the Additional Sessions Judge, and registered as Criminal Appeal No. 304 of 1962 on his file. The learned Additional Sessions Judge, in an elaborate judgment found that the factory officer had authority under the rules to file the complaint. Placing reliance on the provisions of the Act and the rules framed thereunder, the Madras Salt Act, 1889, Section 2 of the Central Excise (Repealing and Amending) Act, II of 1948, and the notifications of the Government of India, in particular Exs. D. 11 and D. 12 he found that individuals or groups may freely produce salt in a land to which they have lawful access for the purpose of construction of salt pans, provided the total area of the land is not more than 10 acres, and that no licence was needed in such cases, and the provisions of the Act would not apply. Press note Ex. D 12 dated 20-5-59, which clarified the press note dated 23-4-1948, stated that the above concessions applied only to salt works located in places other than the precincts of the salt factory, but the land in question is within the precincts of Guruzanapalli Salt Factory, and so he had to obtain the lease or licence from the department, and since he was manufacturing salt from 1-1-1962 without any such licence, he was guilty of violation of Rule 102, read with Section 6. of the Act and was liable to be punished under Section 9 of the Act, In this view, he confirmed the conviction and sentence passed by the trial Magistrate.

6. Against this judgment, Criminal Revision Case No. 538 of 1963. was preferred to this court, and Mohammed Mirza J., by his judgment dated 23-6-64, found that under Section 6(2)(e) of the Salt Cess Act, 1953, and as per notifications, Exs. D. 12 and D. 13 since the extent of the land is less than 10 acres the respondent is exempt from salt cess. The learned judge also found that the notification under which the petitioner was obliged to obtain a licence for manufacturing salt no longer existed, and that since he was manufacturing salt only in an area of 3 acres, he was exempt from paying cess. In that view, the learned Judge allowed the revision and acquitted the accused.

7. After this judgment was rendered, the respondent sent two registered notices dated 30-10-1964, one to Sri M. Satyanarayana, Additional Sessions Judge, and an other Sri B. Sitaramasastry, Judicial II Class Magistrate, Kakinada. By the notice to the Additional Sessions Judge, he called upon him to show, cause within a week why no legal action should be taken against him for violating the fundamental rights of the respondent, and for defaming him, punishable under Sections 166, 500 and 219 I. P. C. By the other notice the respondent asked the Magistrate to show cause why civil and criminal action should not be taken against him. It is the imputations and allegations in these notices that are said to constitute contempt of court.

8. The respondent has filed a prolix counter dealing elaborately with the merits of the case, and emphasising the fact that since the public prosecutor conceded in this court in Criminal Appeal No. 266 of 61 that there was no notification made under Section 6 of the Act, and since the area was less than 10 acres, he had not committed any offence, that the officer who made the complaint had no jurisdiction to do so, and that on evidence and the several legal provisions he could not have been convicted. It was also contended that the Magistrate and the Sessions Judge had no jurisdiction to render those judgments, and that his criticism of their conduct in the judgments, did not constitute contempt. He alleged that he did not impute incompetence, but bias against him (the respondent) and in favour of the salt officers, who filed the case against him in revenge for his publishing the telugu pamphlet dated 14-1-1962. The respondent gave a number of reasons to justify the averment that there was abuse of the process of the court that they acted without jurisdiction, and with bias or partiality to the Salt officer, who inducted a 'rich Komati Woman' (Gollapudi Mangaraju) with an unlawful licence. The judgment of the Magistrate, he said, emboldened the officers to publish a notice by 'tom tom' on 6-12-62 that the respondent was convicted for want of a licence, and that nobody should help the respondent to cultivate salt, as Gollapudi Mangaraju was given licence. The respondent also published a notice on 8-1-1963, warning the officials against inducting Gollapudi Mangaraju as it was illegal according to the judgment of the High Court dated 16-10-1962. The respondent also contended that the officials published the notice on 6-12-1962 even though they were aware that an appeal was filed on 10-10-1962 and was pending in the Sessions Court. The respondent averred that the Sessions Judge deliberately omitted to refer to several pieces of evidence and provisions of law in his favour, and convicted him. All that suggested bias and help towards the 'Komati Woman' inducted into his land on 11-12-1962. The opinion of the Sessions Judge was against the judgment of the High Court in C. A. No. 266 of 1961 dated 16-10-1962, even though a copy of that judgment was communicated to the Additional Sessions Judge, and he was aware of the same when he heard the appeal. The respondent also complained that the Additional Sessions Judge made observations slighting him.

9. The respondent is a very old man aged about 92 years and in a bad state of health and hence we dispensed with his personal appearance and he was represented by his son Sri D. Suryaprakasarao, who is an Advocate. He argued for the respondent that there was no need for the respondent to take out any licence, as there was no notification as found by this court in Criminal Appeal No. 266 of 1961. He asserted that he brought that judgment to the notice of the Additional Sessions Judge, and tendered a carbon copy of the same which he had. The learned judge went through it, and returned the copy saying that it was communicated to his court, and would send for it. In order to substantiate his statement from the Bar, he also filed an affidavit dated 28-7-1965 to that effect. He fur-ther stated in the affidavit that the Sessions Judge informed the A. P. P. No. 1, that unless there was some notification as contended by him (the A. P. P. ), the appeal will have to be allowed and permitted Mr. Suryaprakasarao to leave for Hyderabad. It was also alleged that no notification was filed and yet the Additional Sessions Judge delivered the judgment on 12-2-1963, without even making a reference to the judgment of the High Court. He also averred that the Criminal revision case against the judgment of the Additional Sessions Judge was allowed by this court on 23-6-64.

10. Since Sri Surya Prakasarao filed this affidavit, he ceased to appear as an Advocate, and the case was argued by Sri P. S. T. Sayee. The contentions raised on behalf of the respon-dent are as follows:

1. The averments in the letters do not cons-titute contempt of court.

2. There was no publication of the imputations, and they were made in notices sent by the respondent before taking legal proceedings against the two judicial officers, and cannot amount to contempt.

3. The imputations in the notices are true, and were bona fide believed by the respondent having regard to the circumstances of the case.

4. Having regard to his age and the sense of injury under which the respondent suffered, he may be acquitted.

11. We shall consider the validity of these arguments seriatim.

12. The imputations complained of may be adverted to. In his notice to the Additional Sessions Judge, the respondent made the following statements :

'In your judgment dated 12-2-1963, in Criminal Appeal No. 304 of 1962 you confirmed the conviction under Section 9 of the Central Excises and Salt Act 1944 for violating Rule 102 of the rules read with Section 6 of the Central Act of 1944 without leading my defence statement clearly and defintiely to the effect that

Because you wanted to ignore the prosecution evidence in my support both oral and documentary and you did not want to hear me to press it upon you. you joked and insulted me on 19-12-62 in the presence of Bar in the open court by saying 'You may dive deep and Deeper'

This insult was made to me forgetting that I hadbeen a Sub Divisional Magistrate, exorcising similar appellate powers as you. All this is becauseyou wanted to convict me without hearingdefence from me and even declared that I couldnot question the right to my land by the CentralGovernment . Of course by 19-12-62a 'Rich Komati Woman' was given a lease ofmy land by the Salt Officer and also a licencewhich was unnecessary and inducted into myland against the clear warning given by the HighCourt against such induction in its judgment inCrl. A. No. 266 of 1961 dated 16-10-1962 ofwhich you had a copy and was aware when youheard the appeal This judgment also clearlyobserved that there had been no notificationunder Section 6 of the Act 1 of 1944 but yetyou confirmed the conviction. I believe thatyou did all this to help the salt officerto induct the Komali Rich Woman againstthe clear facts and law to the contrary indicatedby the High Court Judgment.

You have already had a copy of the High Court Judgment dated 23-6-1964 completely agreeing with my exposition of law from 1958 npto date.

I believe and am afraid that you convicted me to help the salt officers and Komati Woman.

13. The substance of the attack made against the Additional Sessions Judge may be summed up thus:

(1) He ignored the clear provisions ot the Acts and rules. (2) He ignored the prosecution evidence, and, in order to do so, he insulted the respondent, (3) He wanted to convict the respon-dent without hearing his defence, and prejudged his guilt. (4) The judgment of the High Court Crl. A. No. 266/61 a copy of which was with the judge and of which he was aware at the time of hearing of the appeal, and which supported the respondent's case was ignored (5) He did all that to help the salt officer to induct the 'Komati Rich Woman' contrary to fact.s and law the suggestion being that the Addi tional Sessions Judge, who is also of Vvsya com-nmnity. convicted the respondent in order to benefit a rich woman of his community Thus the respondent attributed to the officer mcom-petence, judicial dishonesty in not adverting to the facts and law and the judgment of the High Court, bias in favom of the prosecution, and an insinuation that he was influenced by other considerations, like community and the wealth of the party who was ultimately to be benefited.

14. The statements contained in the notice to the Magistrate are:

'You convicted me without reading Section 6 of the Act and accepting the fake notification dated 28-2-1944 for the making rules for the collection of assessment of duties under the Sea Customs Act.....You took cognizance of the complaint which was addressed to the other Magistrate beside neglecting to read the Act and asking for the notification to be filed immediately.You adjourned the case several limes giving timefor the complainant to get at and file the notification under Section 6 of the Act I of 1944, withouteven summoning me and without even satisfyingyourself, the legal requisites for filing a complaint viz., that he should be a central exciseofficer, empowered by the Central Governmentto arrest, enquire and send the accused to theMagistrate. It is clear that you did all this tohelp the salt officer and possibly to help the rich'Komati Woman' who tendered to take my landon lease as the complainant himself stated in thecourt By this judgment you violated myfundamental rights in Articles 14, 19(1)(f) and (g),20(1), 21 and 35 and 375 of the Indian Constitution besides abetting the defamation againstme by the Salt Officer making a false charge andfalse evidence before yon '

The substance of the accusation against the Magistrate is: (1) Incompetence, in that he was not aware of the elementary principal requisites for a valid complaint; (2) a .suggestion that in registering the complaint and in convicting him, the Magistrate did so 'possibly' to hern the Salt Officer with a view to ultimately help the rich 'Komati Woman'

15. That these allegations, ex facie, amount to contempt of court, admit of no doubt. They constitute an attack on the competence and in-tcgrity of the judicial officers. The consequence, of such attacks on their character is to destroy the confidence of people in courts, seriously impair judicial administration, and bring the administration of justice itself into disrepute. It makes no difference that the attacks were made not during the pendency of a proceeding, but after its disposal. In Emperor v. Murali Mano-har Prasad. AIR 1929 Pat 72 a Full Bench of the Patna High Court ruled that, where a statement about a Judge in execution of his office means and is calculated to mean that the conduct of cases before the Judge is such that the arguments and authorities are ignored, and that for that reason the life and liberty of the subject brought before the Judge is in peril, such a statement is a contempt of court of the gravest character. It was also held that it is for the High Court as a matter of law to construe words and phrases which have no technical significance and to decide what is their meaning and what is the effect which they are calculated to produce. Courtncy-Terrll C. J. who spoke on behalf of the Full Bench, quoted with approval the observations of Mookerjec, J., in In the Matter of the Amrita Bazar Patrika, (1917) ILR 45 Cal 169; (AIR 1918 Cal 988 (FB)) to the following effect: 'It is immaterial whether the attack on the judge is with reference to a cause about to be tried, or actually under trial, or recently adjudg ed; in each instance the tendency is to poison the fountain of justice, to create distrust, and to destroy the confidence of the people in the courts, which are of prime importance to then in the protection of their rights and liberties.'

The learned Chief Justice then made the follow ing significant observations:

'It must be remembered that a Judge by reason of his office is precluded from entering into controversy in the columns of the public press. Whether the comments be of a permissible or of an improper character, he cannot enter the arena and do battle with his adversary upon equal terms. The Judge of a superior court is moreover precluded by considerations of decency from having recourse to the remedy available to any other citizen of whom defamatory words are spoken or written that is to say, of taking proceedings for libel or slander before the ordinary tribunals which arc subject to his own jurisdiction and he requires, therefore, in the exercise of his office a special protection in order that his authority and dignity may be maintained.'

16. In In the Matter of Thusliar Kanti Ghosh, AIR 1935 Cal 419 (FB) Derbyashire, C. J. made observations similar to that of Mook-erjee J. in re Motilal Ghose, (1918) ILR 45 Cal 169: (AIR 1918 Cal 988 (FB)) and held that the contention that there can be no contempt of court except in respect of a ease which has been heard or is pending is wrong.

17. In In re Tulsidas Amanmal Kanmi, AIR 1941 Bom 228 (at p. 232) Bromfield and Wassoodew, JJ. made observations which arc quite apposite:

'It is difficult to sec how there could he a grosser contempt than to allege that a Judge has acted with prejudice, bias and malice in the course of his judicial duties, that he decided a case not according to his own convictions but to please somebody else (that appears to be the meaning of the passage which is made the subject of the second charge) and that he abused his powers as a judge and aeterl dishonestly and in bad faith.'

18. In Rao Hanarain Singh Sheoji Singh v. Gurnami Ram, Tek Chand J., on a review of the case law observed thus:

'After a cause has been finally decided the chief hurdle to comment and criticism is removed, as there is no longer possibility of influencing the decision. Law recognises in such cases freedom of criticism so long as it is fair and true. Law docs not restrain or punish the freesi expression of the disapprobation of what is done in, or, by the courts.

But even in such a case, it must not be for-golten, that scurrilous and disrespectful attacks on the court, even after it has finally disposed of a case, imputing to it corruption or incompe-tency, will make the critic liable to be summarily punished for contempt of court. The purpose of contempt proceedings is not so much to protect the personal feelings or the dignity of the Judge, But rather fo ensure, that litigants get a fair and unprejudiced trial uninfluenced by extraneous matters not forming legal evidence.'

19. In the light of the aforesaid decisions, it cannot, for a moment, be doubted that the imputations and attacks made by the respondent in the two notices amount to contempt of court.

20. So far as the second contcntiovi is concerned, the argument on behalf of the respondent is two-fold firstly, that there has been no publication of the insinuation against the judicial officers as the notices were sent in closed covers, which are not expected to be read by anyone else except the addresses: and secondly, in accordance with the legal procedure, before the respondent could take any action, he had to send notices to the officers concerned, ami hence the allegations could not amount to contempt.

21. It may straightway be mentioned that under Section 1 of the Judicial Officers' Protection Act, 1850, a judicial officer cannot be sued in any civil court for any act Hour or ordered to be done by him in the discharge of his judicial duty whether or not within the limits of his jurisdiction; Provided that he at the lime, in good faith, believed himself to have jurisdiction to do or order the act complained of. It is well settled that the word 'jurisdiction' in this section means, authority or power to act in a matter, and is not restricted to the narrower sense of authority and power to do an act in a particular form or manner in which it is done. In other words, it re lates to the power, scope and ambil of authority, and, if in good faith a judicial officer believes that he had jurisdiction to do the net complained of, he is immune from liability. It cannot be contended that the officers in the instant case had no jurisdiction, or in good faith did not believe they had jurisdiction to decide the criminal case or the appeal in their courts.

22. A similar contention was considered by the Supreme Court in Brahma Prakash Sharma v. State of Uttar Pradcsh, : 1954CriLJ238 . In that case, the executive committee of a District Bar Association passed a resolution against two judicial officers of the district that they did not inspire confidence in their judicial work, that they were given to slating wrung facts when passing orders, and that they arc overbearing and discourteous to the litigant public and the lawyers alike. The resolution also catalogued a number of other defects in them On appeal to the Supreme Court, Mukherjee J., who spoke on be half of the court, observed thus:

'It seems, therefore, that there are two pri-mary considerations which should weigh with the court when it is called upon to exercise the summary powers in cases of contempt by ''scandalising'' the court itself. In the first place, the reflection on 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 even citizen possesses in respect of public nets done in the seat of justice.....

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 he taken tu distinguish between what is a 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 ..... The position therefore is that a defamatory attack on a Judge may be a libel so far as the Judge is concerned and it would be open to him to proceed against the libellor in a proper action if he so chooses. If, however, 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 mind of the judge himself in the discharge of his judicial duties. It is well established that it is not necessary to prove affirmatively that there has been an actual interference with the administration of justice by reason of such defamatory statements; it is enough if it is likely or tends in any way, to interfere with the proper administration of law.'' It may be mentioned that on the facts of that case the Supreme Court held that it was difficult to say that the representation by the members of the Executive Committee of the Bar Association was likely to have injurious effect on the minds of the public or of the judiciary itself, thereby leading to interference with the administration of justice. It was also held that, considering the fact that in that case no publicity was given to the resolution except its communication to the authorities, not even to the officers themselves, the contempt if any was of a technical character.

23. This judgment was referred to by a Bench of this Court in The Advocate General v. D. Seshagiri Rao, ILR (1959) Andh Pra 1282 (1292) in which the present respondent happened to be the contemner. In that case, the impugned allegations and statements were made in Judicial proceedings in which the contemner himself had no personal interest. The Bench consisting of Chandrareddi, C. I., and one of us (Jaganmohan Reddi) J. held that the decision of the Supreme Court had no application to the case before them. The absence of publication was not held to be a defence at all, and the legal position was stated at p 1292. thus:

'This authoritative pronouncement of the Supreme Court far from giving any assistance to the petitioner establishes that the case comes within the purview of the law of contempt. In our opinion, imputing improper motives to a judicial officer in proceedings in a court of law is a sufficient publication so as to attract the Contempt of Courts Act and it is not necessary that they should be published in a newspaper'. The point of distinction between ILR (1959) Andh Pra 1282 (1292) and the present case is that in that case the scandalous allegation was made in a legal proceeding, though not otherwise published as in a newspaper etc., while in the instant case the attacks are made in letters addressed to the officers concerned.

24. In AIR 1941 Bom 228 (232) already referred to, the question for consideration was, whether scandalous allegations made by an advocate against an officer of the court in a notice under Section 80 C. P C., in which he communicated his intention to file a suit in the High Court for declaration that the remarks made by the Judge against the advocate in his judgment were false, unjustified, malicious and irrelevant, amounted to contempt. It was contended on behalf of the advocate that those remarks did not amount to contempt, and therefore, he was not guilty of professional misconduct. Repelling that contention, Broomfield J., observed thus:

'Learned counsel for the opponent has argued that no offence was committed, not even contempt of court, because these allegations were contained in a notice under Section 80, which the opponent was bound to submit before bringing a suit. But without very strong authority and no authority has been cited in that connection we are not prepared to say that a man merely by filing or threatening to file a suit and calling his communication a notice under Section 80 can insult and vilify a judge in this manner. The opponent must have known, or ought to have known, being a practitioner of the law, that his suit was unmaintainable even apart from the technical flaw of want of sanction under the Government of India Act. No suit of the kind lies for anything said or done by a judge in his jurisdiction, or in a bona fide belief that he has jurisdiction, and there can be no sort of question but that a judge has jurisdiction to criticise a witness ..... The fact therefore that these scandalous allegations were contained in a notice under Section 80 does not in our opinion prevent them from being contempt of court. As for the plea of absolute privilege, that only means that the opponent could not be proceeded against for defamation, not that he is immune from any sort of penalty.'

We follow this decision with respect, and hold that the scandalous and scurrilous imputations which amount to contempt of court do not cease to be so merely because they are contained in a notice preceding a proposed suit or legal action.

25. In regard to the third contention, the argument on behalf of the respondent is that the observation of the High Court in Criminal Appeal No. 266 of 1961, that there was no notification under Section 6 of the Act would have been a complete answer to the prosecution case. It was urged that the Additional Sessions Judge did not care even to refer to that judgment, even though a carbon copy of it was produced before him. In order to support this allegation. Sri Suryaprakasarao filed the affidavit already referred to. We have no reason to disbelieve the statement of a Senior Advocate like Sri Suryaprakasarao. But that circumstance is of no relevance in the present context. The question here is not whether in spite of a reference to that judgment the learned Additional Sessions Judge failed to refer to it or follow it. The prejudice and illegality resulting therefrom can always be remedied by approaching the higher court, and in fact in this case, this court reversed the judgment of the Additional Sessions Judge But that circumstance would not in any way, justify the making of a scurrilous attack against the officer concerned. The learned Additional Sessions Judge has given a number oi reasons for the conclusion he arrived at and he might not have thought it necessary to refer to the admission ot the Public Prosecutor in the High Court that there was no notification under Section 6 of the Act. That circumstance by itself would not justify imputing bias, dishonesty, etc to the officer. Further, in a proceeding for contempt, truth is no defence at all. In the earlier case against this very respondent viz., ILR (1959) Andh Pra 1282 (1288), Chandra Reddi C. J. observed thus:

'In our opinion, it is not permissible to a contenmor to establish the truth of his allegations as the arraignment of the justice of the judges 'excites in the minds of the people a general dissatisfaction with all judicial determinations and indisposes their mind to obey them', and that is a very dangerous obstruction to the course of justice. In our view, the contemner does not occupy the position of a defendant in a libel action who could plead justification'.

In support of that conclusion, the learned Chief Justice referred to in Re, K. L. Gauba, AIR 1942 Lah 105 (FB); J.&P. Coats v. Chandwick, (1894) 1 Ch. D 347 & M. G. Kadir v. Kesri Narain, AIR 1945 All 67. This decision is binding upon us, and we hold that it is not open to the respondent to establish the truth of the imputations made by him.

26. We have given anxious consideration as to the punishment to be imposed on the respondent. Ordinarily, the type of contemnl of which the respondent is found guilty would call for exemplary punishment. But in this case we have to take into consideration the respondent's extreme old age. He is said to be 92 years, unable to walk or see properly and considerably enfeebled in mind. In this context, it may be useful to quote the words of the respondent in his counter-affidavit.

'To do justice to me who worked as Sub Magistrate for 13 years and Sub Divisional Magistrate for 12 years in my active service of 34 years and now living near 92nd year with a weakened mind and still weaker body with toppling legs and shaking hands showing nervous break down and confining me to my bed and house without ability to move out or go upstairs'. Having stated this, he said that if he is found guilty, he may be sent to jail in Vizacapatam for 6 months. The circumstances pointed out clearly rule out any sentence of imprisonment being awarded. Apart from this, the respondent appears to be greatly oppressed by a feeling, and not perhaps without justification, that he was harassed by the Salt Tax Officials. It may be pointed out that notwithstanding the fact that the respondent had filed an appeal against his conviction and sentence of fine of Rs. 100 to a higher court and a notice was received by these officers they deliberately went out of their way to publish by beat of tom tom in the village that the respondent, a retired Deputy Collector, was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 100 or imprisonment for six weeks by the court This is absolutely without any justification whatever All this they have done under the pretext of in ducting some other person.

27. Having failed to get justice in the courts below, the contemner felt that his position was vindicated only by the judgment of the High Court, and, he thought, though mistakenly that hr could take legal proceedings against the two judicial officers and sent the notices in question. The above circumstances can be taken inplea of mitigation, as also the fact that the noticeswere sent only to the concerned officers, andthere was no other publication. We, therefore,find the respondent guilty of contempt of courtand oppress our strongest disapproval of his conduct. Having regard to the fact that he is atthe fag end of his life, absolutely crippled inhealth and mental powers, and all the other circumstances which we have referred we imposeon him a fine of Rs. 200 payable within a weekfrom today.

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