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Sukh Raj Vs. Hemraj and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContempt of Court
CourtRajasthan High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Misc. Contempt of Court Appln. No. 342 of 1965
Reported inAIR1967Raj203; 1967CriLJ1057
ActsContempt of Courts Act, 1952 - Sections 1 and 4
AppellantSukh Raj
RespondentHemraj and ors.
Appellant Advocate M.R. Bhansali, Adv.
Respondent Advocate S.T. Porwal, Adv. for Respondent No. 1
Cases ReferredSee M. Y. Shareef v. Judges of Nagpur High Court
Excerpt: equally to poison the fountain of justice to create distrust among the people against the administration of justice and to destroy their confidence in the courts which object, if allowed to be achieved, would be a great public disaster. aubyn, 1899 ac 549. in 1893 ac 138, in the matter of a special reference from the bahama islands, the test applied by the very strong board which heard the reference was whether, the words complained of were in the circumstances calculated to obstruct or interfere with the course of justice and the due administration of the law. in his opinion in 1765 wilm 243: 97 er 94 which is the source of much of the present law on the subject, spoke of the article complained of as 'calculated to lower the authority of the judge' 12. with all respect, if we..........and certain copies thereof exs. 2 and 3 addressed to shri lal bahadur shastri the late prime minister of india and ex. 4 to shri gulzarilal nanda then home minister, government of india and ex. 5 addressed to the collector jalore, containing certain objectionable passages calculated to undermine the prestige of this high court and impair the confidence of the public in the administration of justice by it. the proprietor and the printer of the press whereat this pamphlet was printed were also impleaded as respondents nos. 3 and 4 respectively. thereafter notices were issued to the respondents to show cause why they should not be punished for contempt of court in publishing and printing the pamphlet in question. when this case came up for hearing before us on the 25th november, 1965,.....

Modi, J.

1. This is a contempt of court matter arising out of a petition filed by one Sukhraj bringing to the notice of the Court a printed pamphlet Ex. 1 purporting to have been addressed by respondent No. 1 Hemraj and his father respondent No. 2 Manchalal to Dr. Radhakrishnan, President of India, and certain copies thereof Exs. 2 and 3 addressed to Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri the late Prime Minister of India and Ex. 4 to Shri Gulzarilal Nanda then Home Minister, Government of India and Ex. 5 addressed to the Collector Jalore, containing certain objectionable passages calculated to undermine the prestige of this High Court and impair the confidence of the public in the administration of justice by it. The proprietor and the printer of the press whereat this pamphlet was printed were also impleaded as respondents Nos. 3 and 4 respectively.

Thereafter notices were issued to the respondents to show cause why they should not be punished for contempt of court in publishing and printing the pamphlet in question. When this case came up for hearing before us on the 25th November, 1965, the petitioner stated that he did not wish to press his application so far as respondents Nos. 3 and 4 were concerned, and, consequently, we ordered that the names of these respondents be struck out of the application. The case before us thus stands confined to respondents Nos. 1 and 2 who are father and son. We may as well mention straightway that respondent No. 2 Manchalal contended that he had nothing to do with the authorship or the publication of the pamphlet in question and in this submission he was supported by respondent No. 1 Hemraj, his son, and it was pointed out that the expression ^^'kk% gsejke eaNkyky** occurring at the end of the pamphlet in question did not mean that Hemraj and Manchalal were both authors of it but only that Hemraj son of Manchalal of Sagra was the author. In these circumstances, the case against Manchalal was not pressed before us, and, in our opinion, rightly, and we straightway dismiss it so far as he is concerned. The present application thus falls to be considered only with respect to Hemraj, respondent No. 1, and none of the other respondents and we shall hereafter refer to him as the respondent in this case.

2. This brings us to the contents of the objectionable pamphlet and the circumstances which have led to its publication.

3. It so happened that a suit (being No. 34 of 1955} for possession of certain immovable property was filed by the respondent against one Heera Chand Sawaimal in the court of the Civil Judge, Jalore. The petitioner appears to be a relation of the defendant in that suit. This suit was dismissed by the trial court. The respondent came in appeal (No. 43 of 1956) to this Court which was dismissed by a Division Bench (consisting of Bhandari and Beri JJ.) by its judgment dated the 17th September, 1963. The respondent then applied for special leave to the Supreme Court and he engaged Shri M. C. Setalvad, the former Attorney General of India to argue it before the Supreme Court, but that application was also dismissed on the 10th September. 1964. Having thus lost his case throughout, the respondent is alleged to have issued the printed pamphlet Ex. 1 to the President of India. This does not bear any date but appears to have been sent to the President on the 25th January 1965. Ex. 2 appears to have been sent to the late Prime Minister of India on the 29th March, 1965, and Ex. 3 also addressed to the same quarter is dated 3rd April, 1965. Ex. 5 is addressed to the Collector. Jalore, and is dated 27th March, 1965, while Ex. 4 addressed to Shri Nanda the then Home Minister of the Government of India, is dated the 29th March, 1965.

4. It is unnecessary for the present purpose to reproduce in extenso the contents of the pamphlet in question. It should be sufficient for us to say that it gives a history of this litigation, and along with it its author chose, inter alia, to make the following allegations therein which are objected to before us. We reproduce them here so that they would speak for themselves.

^^gekjs gd esa brus lcy ikWbUVgksrs gq, Hkh gekjs fo:) QSlyk lqukus dh otg ls gesa ;g eglwl gks jgh gS fd ;gdke iquepan ujflaxth tks ghjkpan dk fj'rsnkj gS vkSj mlds ikl csbekuh dh dekbZds djhc 50&60 yk[k :i;s gS o muds Lexfyax o vU; Cysd ekdsZV ds O;kikjksa esadbZ cM+s cM+s vf/kdkfj;ksa o lsBksa dk fgLlk Hkh gS] blfy; gkbZdksVZ ds ttks dksHkh mijksDr vf/kdkfj;ksa o lsBksa dh flQkfj'k ds lkeus >qduk iM+k ;k >wBhxokgksa vkfn ls dksVksZaa ;kfu U;k; LFkkuksa dks xqejkgk esa j[kk A**

Translated in English, this passage would read as under:

'In spite of the fact that we had a very strong case, its decision went against us and the reason for that, we believe, was that Poonamchand Narasinghji is a relative of Heerachand (defendant) and he has amassed great wealth amounting to 50 to 60 Lacs of rupees by dishonest means and by resorting to smuggling and black-marketing activities wherein big officers and Seths have their own share, and it is on this account that the Judges of the High Court had to bow down to the recommendation of the aforesaid officers and Seths or the defendant Heerachand and his supporter Poonamchand Narshighji introduced false witnesses into the case and thereby misled the Court.'

A little later, the pamphlet goes on to state as follows :

^^bu fo'k;ksa dks ysdj eSausrkjh[k 25&1&65 dks jktLFkku ds vf/kdkfj;ksa o dsUnz ds vf/kdkfj;ksa dk/;ku bl vksj fnyk;k fd jktLFkku esa fj'or[kksjh o i{kikr ls U;k; dk loZuk'k gqvkgS A**

The English rendering of this passage is this:

'Relative to these developments I drew the attention of the authorities at the Centre and in Rajasthan on the 25th January, 1965, that justice had been massacred in this case because of bribery fj'or[kksjh and partiality i{kikr **

In the copy of the pamphlet Ex. 2 sent by the respondent to the Prime Minister on the 29th March, 1965, the following passage was added by him in his own handwriting which reads thus:

^^bl ns'kesa csbekuksa us Cysd ds :i;ksa ls U;k; dk [kwu djok;k gS A mfpr dk;Zokgh djk;saA**

Translated in English, it reads as follows:

'These dishonest people have in this case got justice massacred by black money, and, therefore, it is prayed that suitable action be taken.'

There is nothing of importance in the rest of the pamphlet which deserves to be taken notice of except that its subject-matter has been mentioned at the very beginning thereof in these words :

^^D;k iztkrkaf=d Hkkjr esa gekjslkFk gq, ?kksj vU;k; dk fQj ls U;k; izkIr fd;k tk ldrk gS A**

Rendered in English this would read as follows:

'Can the gross injustice done to us in democratic India be still set right?'

5. In reply to the notice served on him, the respondent has accepted the ownership of the pamphlet and that he sent it to the various Quarters mentioned above. He has also accepted the endorsement in his own handwriting on Ex. 2 addressed to Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri then Prime Minister of India. He has endeavoured, however, to explain how he came to entertain the belief that the even course of justice had been diverted in his case by resort to the use of extraneous methods specified by him in his pamphlet, because, according to him the petitioner and his father had openly boasted, as if, from the house-tops in the town that because they had money to spend and influence to exercise on their side, they had managed to succeed in their case. We cannot do better in this connection than to reproduce this plea in the language used in the reply itself which is as follows:

'As the petitioner and his father roared in the village that they have ultimately got the judgment in their favour because they have money to spend and influence of such capitalists to exercise and as such the non-petitioner was led to believe that such persons having 50 to 60 lakhs of rupees can exercise influence and obtain judgment from the Hon'ble High Court in their favour and as part of his duty what he honestly felt after hearing the statements from the petitioner and his father to approach the President of India by way of a petition and express his feeling as to how he felt after hearing the petitioner and his father.'

This plea, we may add has been repeated time and again in the respondent's reply. Having said this, the respondent then stated that he had.

'full faith and unquestionable confidence in the judiciary of Rajasthan and he had no intention in the least to lower down the dignity of the High Court of Rajasthan or of the law courts in general nor he had any intention to bring the administration of justice into disrespect.'

It was further pleaded that the respondent having lost his case felt utterly disappointed and lost his equilibrium of mind and it was in a mood of frustration that he had made what he calls 'a petition to the President of India'

6. At the very commencement of the hearing of this matter, learned counsel for the respondent repealed the unconditional apology on behalf of his client and prayed that we should discharge the notice, contending that once the apology has been offered, any contempt of court on the part of his client should be treated as having been adequately purged.

7. The first point which emerges for decision in the circumstances narrated above is whether the respondent is guilty of contempt of court having published the kind of pamphlet which he did attacking the integrity and impartiality of the Judges of this Court.

8. Now before we deal with this aspect of the case we should like to state by way of clearing the ground that we are not at all impressed by the plea raised by the respondent in his reply and which was repeated before us at the bar that what the respondent had done was not to publish a pamphlet but that he had filed a petition to the President who was the Head of the State against the injustice which had been done in his case We see no force in this submission because, as we have already pointed out while narrating the facts of this case that the respondent did not merely send his so-called petition to the President of India but also to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister and even went to the length of sending a copy of it to the Collector of his district. Without going into the question as to whether the respondent was justified in making a petition to the President in a matter like this, we are categorically of the opinion that he had hardly any justification for sending it to the other quarters including the Collector as he did, and, therefore, we have no hesitation in rejecting this plea.

9. This brings us to the question whether the pamphlet for which the respondent made himself responsible amounts to a contempt of court.

10. Now we should like to state at the very outset that there is no statutory definition of 'contempt' but it is well established that any act done or writing published which is calculated to bring a Court or Judge into a contempt or to lower its or his authority or to interfere with the due course of justice or lawful process of the court is a 'contempt of court' 'Contempts' have been classified into three categories (1) those which scandalise the court. (2) those which abuse the parties concerned in the causes pending in a court and (3) those which prejudice mankind against a person before a cause is heard. We are not concerned with the last two mentioned categories in this case hut with the first and under this head fall libels on the integrity of the court and its judges and officers.

We should further like to observe that the principle deducible from the various decisions both in England and India is that punishment under this head is inflicted not with a view to protect the individual Judges from repetition of the attack or the court as a whole or maintain the individual or collective dignity of the judges hut to ensure the confidence of the public in the administration of free, fearless and impartial justice and to avert the tremendous public mischief which will inevitably be caused if such confidence is allowed to be undermined or impaired. It is also well established that it is immaterial whether the attack on the judge is with reference to a pending case or which is about to be tried or which has been recently adjudged. In each case, the tendency is equally to poison the fountain of justice to create distrust among the people against the administration of justice and to destroy their confidence in the courts which object, if allowed to be achieved, would be a great public disaster. See In re. Tarit Kanti Biswas, AIR 1918 Cal 988 (SB).

11. Our attention was particularly invited in this connection by learned counsel for the petitioner to the observations of their Lordships of the Privy Council in Debi Prasad Sharma v. Emperor, AIR 1943 PC 202 which were to the following effect:

'The cases of contempt which consists of 'scandalizing the Court itself' are fortunately rare, and required to be treated with much discretion. In 1899 this Board pronounced proceedings for this species of contempt to be obsolete in this country though surviving in other parts of the Empire; but they added it is a weapon to be used sparingly and always with reference to the administration of justice, Mcleod v. St. Aubyn, 1899 AC 549. In 1893 AC 138, In the matter of a Special Reference from the Bahama Islands, the test applied by the very strong Board which heard the reference was whether, the words complained of were in the circumstances calculated to obstruct or interfere with the course of justice and the due administration of the law.'

It would appear, however, from the very next sentence in their Lordships' judgment that such jurisdiction was not obsolete in England itself for they went on to point out:

'In Reg v. Gray, (1900) 2 QB 36 it was shown that the offence of scandalizing the Court itself was not obsolete in this country. A very scandalous attack had been made upon a Judge for his judicial utterances while sitting in a criminal case on circuit; and it was with the foregoing opinions on record that Lord Russell of Killowen L. C. J. adopting the expression of Wilmot G. J. in his opinion in 1765 Wilm 243: 97 ER 94 which is the source of much of the present law on the subject, spoke of the article complained of as 'calculated to lower the authority of the Judge'

12. With all respect, if we may say so at this juncture, it would be going too far in the circumstances which obtain in our country to lay down that punishment for this species of contempt be treated as obsolete in this country, though we are fully prepared to uphold that such jurisdiction must be exercised with much discretion and after due circumspection.

13. We should further like to observe in this connection that the proper course to be followed in order to determine whether a particular matter amounts to a contempt of court would be to read it as it stands and to attach to the words used their natural meaning without the assistance of a laborious commentary. The mere disclaimer on the part of the publisher or the author that he had no intention to show disrespect to the court would, not, therefore, be a sufficient defence when the purpose and meaning of the writing is obviously of a contrary import and is contemptuous. If, however, the language used is fairly capable of an innocent interpretation, the court will not be astute to read a sinister import into it. But, if on the other hand, the language is fairly clear, liability to punishment cannot be allowed to be avoided by the use of a cloak or an artifice. Likewise the intention or the motive of the coptemner is immaterial if the publication is calculated to impede the fair trial of a case or bring the administration of justice into contempt. See In re, Tarit Kanti. AIR 1918 Cal 988 (SB) (supra) and State v. Radhagobinda, AIR 1954 Orissa 1. We should, however, guard ourselves from being understood to mean that Judges and courts are above all criticism. Indeed, if reasonable argument or criticism is offered against a judicial act as contrary to law, no court should or would treat that as contempt.

14. It is in the light of the above tests that we now proceed to determine whether the passages in the pamphlet to which objection has been taken amount to a contempt of court.

15. On a fair reading of the pamphlet as a whole, we are unable to hold that it is, in substance, any legal criticism of the judgment delivered by the Division Bench of this Court. But, on the other hand, it unmistakably raises a loud grievance that in delivering the judgment which they did, the learned Judges allowed themselves to be influenced by recommendations which, according to the belief of the respondent, had been made to them by rich and powerful quarters. This, in our opinion, impules both lack of integrity and impartiality to the Judges of the Court and unmistakably amounts to gross contempt of court.

16. Learned counsel for the respondent referring to the first passage which we have quoted in extenso above strenuously urged that that was not the only alternative to which the respondent had given expression but that he had also mentioned the other alternative namely that the Judges might have been misled into giving the judgment which they did by reason of the false evidence which had been introduced by the defendant and his supporters. In the first place, we think that the disguise by which the integrity and the independence of the Judges was attacked in this passage is too thin to be mistaken and the artifice employed by couching the allegation in an alternative form does not and cannot minimise the real sting contained in the passage. In the second place his intention becomes further clear when in the second passage also quoted in extenso above, the respondent made the allegation that justice had been ruthlessly murdered in his case because of the bribery and the partiality to be found in the courts of the State including the High Court.

17. Howsoever indulgent a view we might take of a scandalous writing like this, and howsoever circumspect we have to be in construing the legal effect of such an imputation, we find it impossible for ourselves to hold otherwise than this that that is as gross a contempt of court as can be imagined. Its sole tendency and object is to bring into dispute the dignity of this Court and the administration of justice dispensed by it in the eye of the public, in fact, to destroy its real image by raising a wall that the Judges of this Court lack integrity and impartiality and were apt to bow down to influence and pressure of rich Seths or high officers who may be interested in diverting the even course of justice.

These passages, therefore, in our considered judgment, clearly amount to a gross contempt of court by scandalising it and to this it is no answer to say that they thought and said so because the petitioner and his father were heard publicly boasting in the town in which the parties lived that they had achieved their object because of the infuence and the wealth that they had at their disposal in winning over the Judges to their side. This last mentioned allegation has been countered by the petitioner in no unmistakable terms, and we believe this denial. The petitioner as such was not a party to that case and had no reason, in the normal course of human conduct, to indulge in a stupid boast like that. Apart from that altogether, we are inclined to think that the respondent has invented this excuse to serve him as a justification for what he did which justification it is not and cannot be.

18. It was also pressed before us that the respondent was greatly disappointed at the result of the case and acted in a fit of excitement or frustration. We are not prepared to accept that either Our reasons for coming to this conclusion are not far to seek. In the first place, the respondent chose to express himself in print and could not have done so save with deliberation. In the second place, he sent a copy of the objectionable pamphlet to the President on or about the 25th January, 1965. He sent a copy of the same Ex. 5 to the Collector of his district on the 27th March. 1965. He sent further copies of the same to the Prime Minister and to the Homo Minister of India, Exs. 2 and 4 on the 29th March. 1965. He sent a further copy of it again to the Prime Minister Ex. 3 on the 3rd April, 1965. It is impossible to accept in these circumstances that the respondent acted in a state of temporary excitement or a momentary loss of equilibrium of mind In fact, we are constrained to come to the conclusion that be acted in a cool, calculated and deliberate way.

We have further no hestitation in saying that any person of average intelligence who read this pamphlet could not fail to acquire the impression that the Judges of the High Court in Rajasthan are men of no character: integrity or independence, and that administration of justice throughout the State can be purchased by bribery and/or influence We should like to make it clear that it is not that these allegations affect us personally and we treat them with utter disdain which they deserve. But at the same time we feel that it is our duty to protect the administration of justice from such scurrilous attacks not in our self-interest but in the interest of public administration of justice. It is for these reasons that we have come to the conclusion that an attempt like this must be suitably reprimanded and dealt with, and, therefore, we are constrained to hold that the passages to which we have drawn pointed attention and which we have discussed above, amount to a clear contempt of court.

19. The next question is whether we should discharge this notice in view of the circumstance that an apology was offered by learned counsel for the respondent on the latter's behalf at the commencement of the hearing of this proceeding. Our attention was drawn in this connection to a number of cases by learned counsel; but we consider it unnecessary to refer to them specifically as whether an apology should be considered to purge the contempt or not must depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case.

20. Thus it seems to us that an unconditional or unreserved apology in a case of a minor or technical contempt may be accepted to have the effect of purging the same. But the same could not be legitimately predicated of serious or gross contempts. Again, it must be remembered, and it seems to us to be fairly well established that an apology is not a weapon of defence forged to purge the guilt under all circumstances. Nor can it be allowed to operate as a universal panacea. It has also been held that where a contempt is committed under a mistaken notion of the contemner's rights and duties, even a qualified apology may well be considesed by a court. See M. Y. Shareef v. Judges of Nagpur High Court AIR 1955 SC 19 It has also been held, however, that broadly speaking, there cannot be both justification and an apology as the two things are incompatible. In any case, an apology to be effective must be offered at the earliest possible opportunity, as a belated apology is almost always likely to be rejected as an afterthought or as an idle formality lacking in grace and substance.

21. This list is not exhaustive and indeed cannot be. All that we should like to say is that whether an apology should be accepted or not as purging the contempt in any particular case must depend on the circumstances of each case and the chief of these factors must inevitably be the nature or character of the contempt made.

The impression, however, that howsoever gross the contempt it can be purged by an apology is wrong and the court is not bound to accept it irrespective of the considerations which we have pointed out above and certain others which may be relevant. As we have already pointed out, we are disposed to hold the view that the contempt in which the respondent has indulged in this case is of a particularly gross character, and that being so, we find ourselves unable to hold that any apology offered by the respondent herein should be accepted as having purged the same We hold accordingly.

22. The next question is: what punishment must be meted out to the respondent? It was suggested to us by learned counsel for the petitioner that we should sentence the respondent to one month's simple imprisonment and not less having regard to the nature of the contempt he has committed. Ordinarily we should have sentenced him to a term of imprisonment but we are inclined to take a somewhat lenient view of his lapse on the present occasion. One consideration which has inclined us to show this leniency to him is that his learned counsel expressed his unconditional apology to us at the very beginning of the hearing of this proceeding. It also seems to us that even in those cases where an apology may not be accepted as having the effect of purging the contempt in view of the gravity thereof, it may be taken into consideration if tendered in time as softening the rigour of the punishment to which the contemner may otherwise render himself liable.

Bearing this principle in mind, we think that the ends of justice would be met in the present case if we sentence him to a fine of Rs. 500. We order accordingly. We give him one month's time for the payment of the fine. If the fine is not so paid, he shall be sentenced to simple imprisonment for one month. The petitioner shall get his costs from the respondent which we hereby fix at Rs. 250.

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