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In the Matter of Contempt of Court Proceedings Vs. K.S. Sethi - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Appeal No. 54 of 1971
Judge
Reported inILR1972Delhi113
ActsContempt of Court Act, 1952 - Sections 3
AppellantIn the Matter of Contempt of Court Proceedings
RespondentK.S. Sethi
Advocates: K.S. Sethi,; Y. Dayal,; R.L. Aggarwal and;
Cases Referred(Thakur Lal v. Mahabir Prasad Sharma
Excerpt:
(i) contempt of court act (1952) - section 3--notice by contemner under section 80, c.p.c. levelling allegations of dishonesty and favoratism against judges and claiming damages--whether act of giving notice itself amounts to contempt of court.; where, in a notice under section 80, c. p. c., the contemner leveled allegations of dishonesty and favoratism against the judges : held, that the substance of the averments in the said notice is likely to bring the administration of justice into contempt since by the making of those allegations the authority of the court is lowered and the sense of confidence which people have in the administration of justice in the court is weakened. in other words, this is a case of the court being scandalised; it is not a mere case of offering protection to..........(11). in the former case, derbyshire. c. j. pointed out that 'the right to punish by summary procedure contempts of court by scandalising the court still exists'. in the latter case tek chand, j. was concerned with the making of a false affidavit by a sub inspector of police by way of return to a petition for writ of habeas corpus under section 491 criminal procedure code . in that context it was held that even 'perjury or false swearing would constitute contempt of court, if the alleged false statement had an obstructive effect made with the knowledge of falsity and the question was pertinent to the issue'. none of these decisions are thereforee, of any assistance to the contemner. on the other hand the relevant observations of the supreme court in 0065/1971 : 1971crilj844 ,.....
Judgment:

S. Rangarajan, J.

(1) Notice has been issued, suo motu, by this Court to the contemner K. S. Sethi, when it was brought to the notice of this Court by Shri R. L. Gupta, Sub Judge 1st Class, Delhi that the contemner had issued a copy of the notice under section 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure charging him as well as B. C. Misra, J. with dishonestly discharging their official duties, 'putting off all judicial clothes' and 'becoming quite naked' for 'rendering dishonestly undue favor to Shri H. K. Bansal, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Trade, Udyog Bhavan, New Delhi'. Copies of the said notice under section 80 Civil Procedure Code. were addressed to (1) the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi, (2) the Chief Secretary, Delhi Administration, Old Secretariat, Delhi, (3) Shri H. K. Bansal, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Trade. Udyog Bhavan, New Delhi, (4) B. C. Misra, J. and (5) Shri R. L. Gupta, Sub Judge 1st Class, Delhi.

(2) The facts which led to the issue of such notice under section 80 Civil Procedure Code. by the contemner may be briefly noticed. In a declaratory suit, at the instance of the contemner, against the Union of India and two others the contemner had filed an application with regard to the admissibility of an affidavit put in on behalf of the opposite party by Shri H. K. Bansal which was dismissed by the trial Judge and against which an unsuccessful revision was preferred to this Court. After dismissal of the revision by B. C. Misra, J., the above-said notice under section 80 C, P. C. was issued by the contemner, this act was reported to this Court by Shri R. L. Gupta.

(3) The dismissal by the trial Judge of the contemner's application concerning the above-said affidavit was on the ground that there was no material to hold that the affidavit was false.

(4) In the said notice the contemner had accused Shri R. L. Gupta as well as B. C. Misra, J. of 'putting off all judicial clothes and becoming quite naked for rendering dishonestly undue favor to deponent' (Shri H. K. Bansal). The dismissal of the revision petition was stated to be an 'injury in law' 'inflicted on the petitioner' by a fiction (false-hood) of law of the land'. His application for granting a certificate for appeal to the Supreme Court was dismissed. This was stated to be done by B. C. Misra, J. 'dishonestly and fraudulently' taking 'shelter of Article 133(3) of the Constitution'. He further stated 'that the meanings of the above article are so simple and easy that even a lay man cannot be misled by it'. It was still further stated that he was fully conversant with the law, the Judicial Officers Protection Act, whereby judicial officers are provided benefit against such notices if the orders are passed by them innocently and in good faith, and accused Shri R. L. Gupta and B. C. Misra, J. of having 'acted with their ugliest had faith abusing the seats of justice defying their oath of office with dishonest determination to provide undue favor to' Shri H. K. Bansal 'inflicting injury in law' on the contemner and having 'caused substantial disrespect, worry', etc. to the contemner for which he claimed damages in the sum of Rs. 51.000.00. The said notice concluded with the assertion that illegal favortism was shown by the learned Judges, abusing judicial position, to Shri H. K. Bansal in conspiracy with him.

(5) In view of these allegations leveled by the contemner scandalising the High Court and the court subordinate to it the matter was placed before my Lord the then Chief Justice with a note that the contemner had already been found guilty of contempt on 23-11-1967 and sentenced to four months' simple imprisonment plus a fine of Rs. 1,000.00 by 1. D. Dua, C. J. (as his lord- ship then was) and S. K. Kapur and S. N. Andley, JJ. My Lord the Chief Justice had directed this matter to be placed on the judicial side before a Division Bench consisting of S. N. Andley and T. V. R. Tatachari, JJ. who ordered notice to the contemner and directed the same to be placed before a Bench constituted by my Lord the Chief Justice. By a further order, dated 15th October 1971, their Lordships ordered notice to the counsel who have appeared before us.

(6) In answer to the notice issued to the contemner he filed a written Statement praying that the notice/rule issued may be declared to be invalid in law. He relied upon a number of authorities, to which a reference will be made later, and claimed that the allegations made by him in the said statement were true. By a separate application, or (M) 889 of 1971, he prayed for an opportunity to be given to him to prove the truth of the allegations by letting in evidence. During the course of the hearing the contemner raised two points:--

(1)that no contempt was committed by him because he had made those allegations in a notice given under section 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure which was a necessary step for filing a suit for damages;

(2)that the present proceedings taken for punishing him for contempt were premature since he could be punished for contempt only in the eventuality of his suit for such damages being ultimately dismissed.

The second contention is really a corrollary of the first.

(7) The substance of the averments in the said notice, which have been noticed already, are likely to bring the administration of justice itself into contempt since by the making of those allegations the authority of the Court is lowered and the sense of confidence which people have in the administration of justice in the Court is weakened. In other words this is a case of the Court itself being scandalised; it is not a mere case of offering protection to Judges personally from imputation to which they may be exposed as individuals.

(8) The law regarding what constitutes contempt is now wellsettled. The case law on the subject has been discussed by the Supreme Court recently in Shri C. K. Daphtary v. Shri O. P. Gupta & Ors. 0065/1971 : 1971CriLJ844 . It was pointed out by his lordship the present Chief Justice of India that the mere fact that a judgment contains errors can be no excuse for imputing dishonesty to the Judge. The restrictions imposed on the right of freedom of speech and the law regarding contempt are reasonable. A scandalous attack on a Judge in respect of a judgment or past conduct affects adversely the due administration of justice. Even the commission of a gross error in a judgment does not amount to 'misbehavior' within the meaning of Article 124(4) of the Constituti. If a judgment is criticised as containing errors coupled with a criticism of dishonesty on the part of the Judge the court trying contempt of court cannot act as an appellate court and decide whether there are errors or not. The observations in an earlier decision in Sukhdeo Singh Sodhi v. Chief Justice and Judges of the Pepsu High Court A. I. R. 1954 S.C. 186 to the effect that the Code of Criminal Procedure did not apply in matters of contempt triable by the High Court which could deal with it summarily and adopt its own procedure, were approved. The only requirements while taking such action are that the procedure should be fair, the contemner be made aware of the charge given against him and be given a reasonable opportunity to defend himself. The practice is to issue a notice to the alleged contemner in order that he may file his reply. The contemner in this case has done so by filing a reply. But by means of a separate application he wanted an opportunity to let in evidence to justify allegations amounting to contempt of court. Adverting to a similar stand by the contemner his lordship the Chief Justice (Sikri, C. J.) observed in paragraph 81 (p. 1148) as follows:

'if evidence was to be allowed to justify allegations amounting to contempt of Court it would tend to encourage disappointed litigants-and one party or the other to a case is always disappointed-to avenge their defeat by abusing the judge'.

(9) In the present case also having regard to the nature of the allegations made by the contemner we do not think that he is entitled to an opportunity for letting in evidence to justify what he has said, namely, the learned Judges concerned misconducted themselves by showing favoritism to Shri H. K. Bansal and abused their judicial position in conspiracy with him.

(10) We see little force in the contention of the contemner that it was necessary for him to give a notice under section 80 Civil Procedure Code. as a preliminary to his filing a suit for damages and that nothing that is said in such a notice can in law amount to contempt. For this view we have been able to derive considerable support from observations made in some decisions.

(11) In Advocate General v. D. Seshagiri Rao : AIR1966AP167 the contention that contempt was not committed on account of there having been no publication of the imputation, since they were made in notices sent by the contemner before taking legal proceedings against the two judicial officers, was negatived. It was pointed out that the consequence of such attacks on judicial officers was to destroy the confidence of people in courts, seriously impair judicial administration and bring the administration of justice itself into disrepute. In that case the contemner who was convicted of a criminal offence sent a notice to the Magistrate who tried him alleging incompetency owing to his note being aware of the elementary principal requisites for a valid complaint coupled with an allegation that the Magistrate had registered the complaint and convicted him in order to favor some one. A similar view taken by a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court consisting of Broomfield and Wassoodew. JJ. In re Tulsidas Amanmal Karani : AIR1941Bom228 was followed; Broom- field, J. had observed as follows :

'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'.

In that case the contemner was an attorney. For this reason the judgment was concerned with the question whether he should be debarred from practicing as an attorney.

(12) In State of U. P. v. Lakshmi Narain Singhal A. I. R. 1962 All 127 the question was whether contempt was committed by the issuance of a notice under section 80 Civil Procedure Code. to a Magistrate, who had jurisdiction to pass the order he did, by imputing had faith to the Magistrate and suggesting that he was personally interested in one of the parties to the dispute. Broome, J. referred in this connection to the Judicial Officers Protection Act, 1950 which offers protection to a judicial officer acting judicially in two classes of cases: (a) in respect of acts done or ordered to be done within the limits of his jurisdiction, and (b) for acts done or ordered to be done outside the limits of his jurisdiction. In the former class of cases the protection offered by the Act is absolute and the officer concerned is not liable to be sued, whether or not he acted erroneously, irregularly or even illegally.

(13) Reliance for this position was placed on Teven v. Ram Lal Indian Law Reports Allahabad, Vol. Xii, 11(6). In the latter class of cases, it was pointed out, protection can be claimed only if the officer believed in good faith to have jurisdiction to do the act complained of. Broome, J. was satisfied that in the case before him the Magistrate acted clearly within his jurisdiction and thereforee contempt had been committed by making the averments in the said notice under section 80 Civil Procedure Code. The reasoning, in other words, was that if no suit itself could lie for damages against judicial officers concerned on account of the Judicial Officers Protection Act, the notice could not be looked upon as a preliminary step towards a suit but must be treated as a gratuitous attempt to interfere with the course of justice.

(14) In the present case the learned Judges were equally acting within the limits of their jurisdiction and the question of the contemner challenging their acts on the ground of want of good faith does not arise. Recently the Supreme Court had occasion to consider the question whether contempt had been committed by making scandalous allegations against Judges in an application for transferring certain proceedings from one court to the other. Hegde, J. speaking for the Court observed as follows in Amrit Singh v. State (Delhi Administration) in Transfer Petition No. 16 of 1968 decided on 24th March 19710 :

'IT is not from any exaggerated notion of the dignity of any one of us that we are proceeding against the petitioner for contempt of Court, but because it is imposed upon this Court the duty of preventing brevi manu in contempt to interfere with the administration of justice. The petitioner has been deliberately interfering with the course of justice and for that purpose scandalising the Judges.'

(15) The present contemner had made the above-said averments in the notice under section 80 Civil Procedure Code. even after he had been punished for contempt in Criminal Original 49 of 1967 on the file of this Court. I. D. Dua, C. J. (as his Lordship then was) was inclined to impose only a sentence of four months' simple imprisonment plus a fine of Rs. 1,000.00, in spite of representations made by Counsel representing the Bar as well as the State that the maximum sentence may be imposed, after considering all the circumstances. This obviously had no effect on the contemner ; he has been persisting even subsequently in scandalising the Court. Even after notices were issued in this proceeding he had not shown the slightest contriteness; on the other hand he has pressed for an opportunity to substantiate those allegations by letting in evidence.

(16) On 4th October 1971 the contemner filed a written statement in these proceedings. Since he has relied upon the following decisions in the said written statement it has become necessary to deal with them. It was held in The Queen v. Gray Q. B. D. 1900 36 that 'the publication in a newspaper of an article containing scurrilous personal abuse of a Judge, with reference to his conduct as a Judge in a judicial proceeding which has terminated, is contempt of Court punishable by the Court on summary process'. The observations in that case on which the contemner relies are 'if reasonable arguments or expostulations are offered against any judicial act as contrary to law or in public good no Court could or would treat that as contempt of Court'. These observations are of no assistance to him since that is not the position here. For the same reason the observations of Mukherjea, J. (as his lordship then was) in Brahma PrakaSh Sharma v. The State of Uttar Pradesh : 1954CriLJ238 to the effect that 'reflection on the conduct of character of a judge with 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' are also not of any assistance to the conemner.

(17) The following observations of the Supreme Court in Bathina Ramakrishna Reddy v. The State of Madras : 1952CriLJ832 have been relied upon, though out of the context:

'if the allegations are true obviously it would lead to the benefit of the public to bring the matter into light'.

The attack in that case was that the Sub Magistrate was corrupt and instances were cited, where it was rumored that the officer had either taken bribes or had put the parties to undue harassment because they were obdurate enough to refuse the demands of his broker. It was pointed out that the contemner in that case had not, as a reasonable man, attempted to verify the information he received and ascertained, as far as he could, whether the facts were true or mere concocted lies. It was observed by Mukherjea, J., in that case, that defamatory statements about the conduct of a judge even in respect of his judicial duties do not necessarily constitute contempt of court for such libel may or may not amount to contempt. It constitutes contempt only when the defamation is calculated to obstruct or interfere with the due course of justice or proper administration of justice. We are unable to find anything in favor of the contemner in the other two decisions relied upon by him in this connection : : AIR1959Bom6 (State of Bombay v. Smt. Shrirish V. Pai & Ors.) or : AIR1932Cal255 (Amulya Chandra Bhaduri v. Satis Chandra girl & Ors.)

(18) In Cr. Misc. 889 of 1971, filed by the contemner requesting for an opportunity to be given to prove the truth of the allegations made by him, he has relied upon two further decisions, namely. A. 1. R. 1935 Cal 419 In the matter of Trusher Kami Ghosh, Editor, Amrit Bazar Patrika (13) and A. 1. R. 1961 Pun {Amarnath Sawan Mal v. Joginder Singh). (11). In the former case, Derbyshire. C. J. pointed out that 'the right to punish by summary procedure contempts of Court by scandalising the Court still exists'. In the latter case Tek Chand, J. was concerned with the making of a false affidavit by a Sub Inspector of Police by way of return to a petition for writ of habeas corpus under section 491 Criminal Procedure Code . In that context it was held that even 'perjury or false swearing would constitute contempt of Court, if the alleged false statement had an obstructive effect made with the knowledge of falsity and the question was pertinent to the issue'. None of these decisions are thereforee, of any assistance to the contemner. On the other hand the relevant observations of the Supreme Court in 0065/1971 : 1971CriLJ844 , which, bear on the question whether the contemner could be allowed to let in evidence in a case like the present, have been referred to already.

(19) Two other decisions relied upon by the contemner are : AIR1960Pat326 - State of Bihar v. Shiv Prasad Lal Seth & Anr. (the page has been omitted to be mentioned in the written statement, but the identity of the case is clear) and : AIR1955All391 (Thakur Lal v. Mahabir Prasad Sharma & Anr.) They only bear upon the question whether expressions made in good faith in legal proceedings which were open to the person concerned could make out a case of contempt and have no relevancy for having regard to the nature of the protection extended to a judge who acts within his jurisdiction under the Judicial Officers' Protection Act, 1950, no suit would lie against him in respect of any such act and for that reason the occasion to issue a notice under section 80 Civil Procedure Code. would not arise.

(20) In the course of his submissions today the contemner has drawn our attention to an application dated 4th December 1971 which he filed in the registry. This application had been returned by the office for want of sufficient stamps being affixed on the copy of the order of B. C. Misra, J. which had been annexed to the application. We have overlooked this objection, regarding want of sufficient stamp, and we have considered the representations in this application also, which were read out to us today in court by the contemner. The contemner seeks an opportunity to let in evidence in support of what he says he has rightly stated in the notice under section 80 Civil Procedure Code. In substance this voices a grievance that leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was improperly refused by B. C. Misra, J. This is again not the forum to formulate such a grievance. If be is aggrieved by the said order his remedy would be to apply to the Supreme Court for special leave. In the circumstances none of the allegations made by the contemner in the said application dated the 4th December 1971 need detain us. We find the contemner guilty of having committed contempt of Court.

(21) We have given the matter our earnest consideration and we have heard not only the contemner but also Shri Deepak Chaudhry, Central Government Counsel, Shri Yogeshwar Dayal, Additional Standing Counsel for the Delhi Administration and Shri R. L. Aggarwal, President of the High Court Bar Association. All the learned counsel who assisted us have pressed for the maximum punishment being awarded to the contemner who has. unfortunately, been making scurrilous attacks of the above description on Judges who decide against him. Having regard to the fact that the contemner has not reformed himself and has not shown any contriteness we consider it necessary to impose the maximum punishment that is permissible under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1952 by sentencing the contemner to undergo simple, imprisonment for six months and also to pay a fine of Rs. 2,000.00. Before concluding we thank the Counsel for the assistance they gave us.


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