K.B. Panda, J.
1. This is a proceeding initiated by this Court on its own motion under Section 15 of the- Contempt all Courts Act, 1971 (Act 70 of 1971) (hereinatfer referred to as the Act) read with Rule 2 (a) of the Rules made thereunder by the Orissa High Court against one Dhruba Charan Bahali the alleged contemner in the context of the admitted facts stated hereinafter.
2. Under annexure 1, the contemner, a resident of Rourkela addressed an undated petition to the Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court alleging that the local subordinate Judge Shri Satchidananda Das was busy in collecting illegal gratification; that on one occasion he brought the contemner under warrant and after snatching certain money from his pocket released him immediately. Therein it was further stated that the Subordinate Judge was harassing the parties with a motive to collect illegal gratification and that if the local Public Prosecutor Shri Bipin Babu is contacted the whole truth would come out. He prayed for an inquiry into the matter.
Another undated petition (annexure-2) was sent to the Registrar of this Court which is a verbatim copy of annexure-1.
A third petition dated 25-9-1974 (annex-ure-3) was addressed to the Chief Justice. It is purported to have been seat by the inhabitants of Rourkela, but not signed by any person. The additions in this annexure 3 which on translation are thatShri Das was collecting illegal gratification through certain lawyers, his oetich clerlcad his brother. Parties who do not bribe him are harassed. As an instance, it is said that a warrant was issued against Shri D. C. Bahali (the contemner) and as he was brought under warrant, Shri Das snatched away one hundred rupees from his pocket and then released him. The contemner and one Gitarani Bahali will bear testimony to this fact. This incident has created a flutter in Rourkela and Sunder-garh, If a judicial inquiry is held into the matter, the amount Shri Das has collected in the meantime by way of illegal gratification from Rourkela will be known and that Rou-kela had never seen before such a corrupt judicial Officer.
There the prayer was that the High Court may investigate into this and immediately get him transferred.
3. As is now evident, the contemner is the author of all annexures 1 and 2 which seem to have been despatched by post sometime, in the last week of September, 1974. There were also some other anonymous letters addressed to other Justices of the Court with copies to the Governor, Chief Minister and Supreme Court. These are in English. But the substance of all these is the same. Since some of these petitions were signed and there were grave allegations against the integrity and impartiality of a member of the Judiciary, the High Court took a serious view of the matter and dealt with it first administratively, to ascertain the truth. The Administrative Judge and the then Acting Chief Justice directed the District Judge, Sambalpur-Sundergarh on 4-12-1974 to hold a confidential inquiry and submit his report to the Court at an early date. The District and Sessions Judge examined on the spot Sri Bipin Bihari Misra, the Public Prosecutor and the Government Pleader, Rourkela; Shri Bhudeb Sarangi, Ad-vocat and Special Public Prosecutor of Polioa Department; Shri Surendra Muduli, Advocate, Rourkela; Shri Dhruba Charan Bahali (the contemner); Shri S. N. Das, Sub-ordinats Judge, Rourkela; and Shri P. Mohan-ty, Magistrate, First Class, Rourkela, all on 6-12-1974. The statements of these witnesses are on record in the administrative file which were made available to the learned Advocate for the contemner at the time of hearing. The penultimate paragraph of the report of the District and Sessions Judge who enquired into the matter is this:
None of the allegations made against the Subordinate Judge, Rourkela have been substantiated and hence they must be rejected as false. Unofficially I learnt that Sri Bahali is involved in a series of defalcation cases and in some of these cases he has already been convicted my the Subordinate Judgei and that is the reason why he has taken recourse to filing frivolous petitions against the Subordinate Judge in. the hope that as a result thereof the Subordinate Judge may be transferred from Rourkela.' This report was considered by the Court which directed that a contempt proceeding should be initiated against Shri Dhruba Charan Bahali. Accordingly, the Registrar of the Court issued a show-cause notice to the contemner on 2-4-1975 which is to the following effect:
Shri Dhruba Charan Bahali,
C/o. Gitarani Bahali Hotel.
Opposite Court Building,,
WHEREAS it appears that you by your acts, conduct and writings have committed contempt of the Court of the Subordinate Judge, Uditnagar (Rourkela) in the facts and circumstances stated herein belows
WHEREAS you addressed a letter (copy enclosed) to the Hon'blo the Chief Justice making an allegation that the Subordinate Judge, Uditnagar (Rourkela) was taking bribe From parties in cases which were pending in, lias Court and harassing diem'
WHEREAS you made further allegation, that once the said Subordinate Judge brought you under arrest to his Court, removed some money from your pocket and then released you;
WHEREAS you also addressed a similar letter to the Registrar of the Court (copy enclosed) making the self-same allegations;
WHEREAS a letter purporting to have been addressed by the residents of Rourkela town to the Hon'ble the Chief Justice (copy enclosed) containing allegations of corrupt practices against Snri Satchidananda Das, Subordinate Judge and Magistrate, First Class, Uditnagar was received in the Court; And
WHEREAS it was alleged therein that Shri Satchidananda Das, Subordinate Judge and Magistrate, First Class was busy in collecting illegal gratification from parties with the help of his- brother, some advocates and his Bench Clerk. It clearly appears to the Court that this letter was, as a matter of fact, written by you:
WHEREAS you sent a similar letter purporting to have been addressed by the residents of Rourktla to the, Registrar of the Court;
WHEREAS during the course of inqufry conducted by the District Judge, Sambalpur-Sundeigarh at Rourkela on 6-12-1974, Shri Surendra Mudu'li, Advocate, Rourkela stated that you admitted before him that you h^ft filed an affidvit in the High Court alleging that the Subordinate Judge on one occasion removed Rs. 100/- from your pocket and released you;
WHEREAS it appears that your acts, conduct and writings, referred to hereinbefore, prima facie constitute contempt of Court, inasmuch as such acts conduct and writings scandalise or tend to scandalise or lower or tend to lower the authority of the said Court of the Subordinate Judge, Udit-nagar (Rourkela),
You, Phri Dhruba Charan Bahali are hereby called upon to appear in person and show cause befonethis Court on 28-4-75 at 11 A. M. why you shall not be punished or any other appropriate order be not passed against you for the contempt of the Court of the Subordinate Judge, Uditnagar (Rourkela),
TAKE NOTICE that in default of showing cause on the said date and time, this Court shall proceed to consider the matter and pronounce judgment your absence notwithstanding.
Given under my hand and seal of the Court, this the 31st day of March, 1975.
By Order Of The High Court
Sd D. Hota
Memo No. 6800 dt. 2-4-1975 '
Copy forwarded to the Advocate General. Orissa Cuttack for information. He is requested to cause his appearance in the case on behalf of the State at an early date.
Sd/- D, Hota
The contemner Bahali first appeared before the Court on 28-4-1975 and prayed for extension of time to show cause and to be exempted from personal attendance. Time was allowed till 10th of Tune, 1975 and his personal attendance was dispensed with subject to the condition that as and when required he must appear before the Court, The matter was put up before the Court for orders on 30-6-1975 when again time was prayed for. But it was rejected in the following manner:
30-6-75- Notice was served on the contemner on 5-4-1975. More than two months have elapsed. We find no sufficient reason for granting further time to show cause. Prayer for time is rejected. The case be shown ready and put up for hearing within a week.
On 4-7-1975, the contemner filed two petitions, by way of reply - one before the Chief Justice and another before Justice R. N. Misra tendering unconditional apology and pleading for mercy. The matter was made ready and came up for hearing on 7-7-1975 when a memo was filed by M/s. S.B. Choudhury and N. Parfja, praying that their ap-ptarance on behalf of the contemner be ignored. The matter was finally heard on 11-7-1975 when the contemner was present in Court At that time, Mr. R. C. Patnaik, Advocate appeared on his behalf. The pith and substance of his reply to the show cause is thus:
Getting involved in several cases I had become almost mad. My wife was carrying and my only daughter was ill. Being in such a predicament and going without food for most of the time under physical and mental strain I had become mad. Before tliis I had written to you, (meaning the Chief Justice) that the Sub-Judge, Rourkela was taking bribe. There is no truth in it. In a state of insanity I had so written to you against the Sub-Judge. The Sub-Judge is innocent. I am now repenting. I plead for mercy for the mistake I have done and I am penitent for it. Unless you excuse me, this poor Brahmin who has started his family life recently-his wife and daughter would be thrown on the streets. Whatever I had informed you was in a state of madness and that because of the difficulties I was in I had informed your Lordship many wrong and incorrect things. The Sub-Judge Sri S N. Das has no fault.
4. Mr. Patnaik appearing on behalf of the contemner raised two points, namely, (a) a technical objection that in view of subsection (2) of Section 15 of the Act, in absence of a reference by the Subordinate Judge or a motion made by the Advocate General, this Court is incompetent to start a proceeding suo motu; and (b) that in case his first contention is not accepted, then in view of the unqualified apology tendered and the mental strain under which the contemner made these allegations, he may be pardoned and the rule discharged.
5. The basis of the technical objection taken by Mr. Patnaik is that under Section 15(2) of the Act, there being a specific provision for contempt of a subordinate Court, that provision alone is to be resorted to. Section 15 of the Act so far as is relevant provides
15, Cognizance of criminal contempt in other cases.- (1) In the case of a criminal contempt, other than a contempt referred to in Section 14, the Supreme Court or the High Court may take action on its own motion or on motion made by--
(a) the Advocate-General, or
(b) any other person, with the consent In writing of the Advocate-General.
(2) In the case of any criminal contempt of a subordinate court, the High Court, may take action on a reference made to it by the subordinate court or on a motion made by the Advocate-General or, in relation to a Union territory, by such Law Officer as the Central Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, specify in this behalf. XX XX XX
Section 23 of the Act empowers the Supreme Court and the High Courts to make rules not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act. Accordingly, the Orissa High Court has framed a set of rules to regulate the contempt proceedings, namely, the Contempt of High Court of Orissa and Courts subordinate to it (Regulation of Proceedings) Rules, 1975. Rule 2 thereof, so far a relevant, runs thus;
2. In respect of contempt other than the contempt referred to in Sub-section (1) of Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (Act 70 of 1971), the High Court may take cognizance of contempt;
(a) suo motu;
(b) upon a petition made by the Advocate General of the State of Orissa;
(c) xx xx xx(d) on a reference made by a Court subordinate to it relating to contempt of such subordinate Court.
Section 15 read with Rule 2 quoted above would make it clear that the High Court is quite competent to take cognizance of contempts of Courts subordinate to it suo motu, without any reference made by any subordinate Court for the purpose. If any reference is made, that will come under Rule 2 (d). But even without it under Rule 2 (a) the High Court can suo motu take cognizance of it. These rules are in no way inconsistent with Section 15 of the Act nor there is any such challenge to that effect, Besides Section 15(1) itself envisages how the High Court may take action of all criminal contempts on its own motion, excluding only those referred to under Section 14. The expression 'may take action' appearing in Section 15(2) does not abrogate the right conferred on the High Court under Section 15(1).
6. The Subordinate Court before whom a criminal contempt is committed may or may not refer. But want of reference under Section 15(2) is no bar for the High Court to initiate action on its own motion under Section 15(1),
7. The rules made under Section 23 of the Act take the point beyond the pale of controversy. The High Court may under the Rules take cognizance of contempt in four circumstances as already quoted. The first one is suo motu and the last one is upon a reference made by a Court subordinate to it. Though the four situations enumerated under the rules are exhaustive, they are not mutually exclusive or destructive for contingencies are quite foreseeable when different agencies may move independently simultaneously in ignorance of the move by another. In other words, if the High Court has taken action suo motu that does not debar the subordinate Court to make a reference under Rule 2 (d) and in such a contingency the latter will only merge in the former. This objection taken by Mr. Patnaik here has been fully discussed and finally repelled by a Full Bench of the Delhi High Court reported in 1974 Crl LJ 899 (FB) (D, B. Vohra etc). There it was held;
The word 'reference' in Sub-section (2) in the absence of definition in the Act or any rule of procedure made under the Act, has to be interpreted in the sense of information of a particular matter. No assistance of Section 423 of Criminal Procedure Code 189S or Order 46. Rule 1 of Civil Procedure Code 1908 can be taken for its interpretation.
A statement of the subordinate Court taken by the Sessions Judge at the instance of the High Court and sent to the High Court was held to amount to a reference within the meaning of Sub-section (2).
On an interpretation of Section 15(2), their Lordships observed thus:
Assuming, however, that Sub-section (2) of Section 15 cannot be invoked by reason of the fact that there is not a proper reference before this Court, we do not see why in the circumstances of this case, as stated earlier, the notices issued to the alleged contemners cannot be taken to be suo motu notices under Sub-section (1) of Section 15 of the 1971 Act. learned Counsel for two of the alleged eon-femners had to concede that a notice for contempt of a subordinate Court can be issued suo motu by the High Court under subsection (1) of Section 15 of the 1971 Act because this sub-section covers all cases relating to the cognizance of criminal contempt which are not covered by Section 14 of the 1971 Act.
Further while repelling the objection, it was said:.the notices issued purport to be under Sub-section (2) of Section 15 of 1971 Act but assuming that technically there was no reference by the Subordinate Court concerned under Sub-section (2), there is nothing to prevent this Court to treat, the said notices as notices issued under subsection (1) of Section 15 of the Act. We, therefore, do not accept the first preliminary objection
8. The second point urged by Mr. Patnaik was a complete exoneration and discharge of the rule issued against the con-temner because of the unconditional apology tendered by him. In that context, he stated how getting involved in several defalcation cases and under great family stress and strain in an unbalanced state of the mind, the contemner has made these allegations. The Court should accept the unconditional apology taking a sympathetic attitude. We have given our anxious consideration to this aspect of the case. Here, the contemner brought the vile allegations against the Judicial Officer as he convicted him in some defalcation cases and he had some such cases with the same Judicial Officer yet to be decided. There is nothing on record nor the circumstances indicate that really he was in such a predicament that he would have gone mad, Besides the cool and deliberate move made by him is hardly expected of a mad man. Rather they are consistent with the conduct of a designing person. His behaviour did not indicate any remorse or repentance while the Sessions Judge enquired into the matter, In this background, the only question is 'Should the apology tendered be accepted and ho be fully exonerated?' This identical question came up for consideration before a Division Bench of this Court very recently in State v. Rama Chandra Mohapatra ((1975) 41 Cut LT 329). In that case, Ramchandra Mohapatra, the husband, lost a proceeding under Section 488, Criminal P.C. brought by his wife. So in anger he reported to the Court's superior Officer, that is, the District and Sessions Judge, Baripada that the officer passed an order in favour of his wife being in illicit love with her. The District Judge enquired into the matter and found the allegations to be baseless and false. He brought it to the notice of this Court which took suo motu action under the Act. In this Court, Ramchandra tendered an unqualified apology. Taking into consideration the trend of decisions on the point, both native and foreign and the literature on the subject, this Court did not accept the same and sentenced him to simple imprisonment for one month. The last word on the subject appears to have been very forcefully pronounced by their Lordships of the Supereme Court in the case of Mukh Raj v. State of Punjab : 1972CriLJ754 , reference to which was made by this Court in the above case, in the following terms:
Apology is an act of contrition. Unless apology is offered at the earliest opportunity and in good grace apology is shorn of penitence. If apology is offered at a time when the contemner finds that the Court is going to impose punishment it ceases to be an apology and it becomes an act of a cringing coward. The High Court was right in not taking any notice of the appellants' expression of apology 'without any further word'. The High Court correctly said that acceptance of apology in the ease would amount to allow the offender to go away with impunity after having committed gross contempt.
In the light of the above, the Bench of this Court concluded thus (supra):
The contempt committed in this case is one of the grossest nature. Simply because the Magistrate decided the case against the petitioner in favour of his wife the contemner chose to scandalise the Magistrate, The allegation has completely undermined or at any rate has the tendency to undermine the dignity of the Magistrate in the eye of the piblic. Litigants would tremble to appear before the Magistrate and would not expect any fair trial from him. The unqualified apology tendered in this case is merely a device to escape punishment and we would jot accept the same.
It is only when this Court has taken up the issue and the contemner feels himself in a tight corner from which he has little chance of escape that he comes forward with this unconditional apology to get over the consequences of his act. It is sheer pretension W1r2Utugenume repentance. Accordingly we reject the same as unconvincing and unacceptable.
9. We are conscious of the provisions of Section 13 of the Act that even if a contempt is committed in certain cases no sentence should be imposed unless the contempt is of such a nature that it substantially interferes or tends to interfere with the duo course of justice, We have no doubt that the contempt committed in this case is of a serious nature which substantially interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of justice. It has lowered the prestige of the Officer in the estimation of the general public including the litigants who would, in the circumstances, lose all confidence in him. These are matters where the Court should not take a lenient view, thus giving a premium on unfounded baseless allegations touching the honesty and integrity of a Judicial Officer-whose lot in the present day is otherwise very much unenviable. Suffice it to say that all the annexures sent by the contemner directly come under the definition of 'criminal contempt' as enumerated under Sections 2(c)(i) and 2(c)(iii) of the Act,
10. In the result, we hold that the opposite party is guilty of contempt under Section 2(c) (ii) and (iii) of the Act and he is sentenced to simple imprisonment for one month which, in the circumstances of the case, we think, would be meet and proper.
Registrar to take steps for issue of necessary warrant.
G.K. Misra, C.J.
11. I agree.