K.D. Sharma, J.
1. This is an application filed by Ram Prasad Joshi, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Assistant Collector, Bhinmal, District Jalore, under Section 15(2) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as the Act') for taking such action as this Court thinks fit in the circuit)stances of the case against the non-petitioners Nos. 1 to 10.
2. It is stated in the application for contempt of court that the non-petitioners Nos. 1 to 9, who were editors, publishers and printers of a weekly news paper known as 'Garib Sathi', have published in the issues of the said news paper dated 1st April, 1974 and 15th July, 1974, certain news items at the instance of the non-petitioner No. 10, which are set out in detail in the body of the application and which tended to substantial interference with the due course of justice and were calculated to scandalize or lower down the authority of the court of the Sub Divisional Magistrate, Bhinmal by making false and baseless accusation of bribery, corruption etc. against the petitioner, who was the presiding officer of the aforesaid court at that time.
3. The petitioner put in his own affidavit in support of his application. The affidavit incorporated all the matters mentioned in the application.
4. The application for taking up proceedings for contempt of court was put up before the then Chief Justice Hon'ble B.P. Beri of this Court on 5.10.74, who called for the opinion of the Government Advocate and upon receipt thereof passed the following orders in chambers on 25.9.75:
Opinion of the Govt. Advocate has been received.
Issue notice to the respondents Exit g a date of hearing. Notice may also be given to the Govt. Advocate. The case may be listed for hearing before D.B. II.
5. In response to the notice issued by Hon'ble the Chief Justice to show cause why action should not be taken, the non-petitioners No. 1, 3 & 8 appeared through their counsel, who contended before us that the non-petitioners were not guilty of contempt of court & the proceedings for contempt were bar red by the period of limitation as they were not initiated against them within the period of one year from the date on which the contempt was alleged to have been committed.
6. The non-petitioner No. 2 Shri D.R. Purohit died during the pendency of these proceedings and so his name was deleted from the array of non-petitioner vide Order of Court dated 10.12 76.
7. As Section 20 of the Act specifies clearly the time for initiating any proceeding for contempt and as in the instant case action for contempt is alleged to have been delayed for over a year, this Court considered it proper to hear arguments of the Government Advocate and the learned Counsel for the non-petitioners on the point of limitation. Accordingly, arguments were heard on 22.2.73.
8. The short question that requires determination in this case is whether proceedings for contempt have been initiated against the non-petitioners within a period of one year as contemplated by Section 20 of the Act. There is no doubt that the news items comprehended to be-contemptuous of the court of Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Bhinmal, were published in the issues of weekly news paper 'GARIB SATHI' dated 1st April, 1 1974 and 15th July, 1974, and proceedings for contempt were initiated against the non-petitioners by Hon'ble the Chief Justice by his order dated 25.9.75, which has already been quoted above in extenso.
9. Mr. A.K. Mathur, learned Public Prosecutor, however, strenuously urged before us that proceedings for contempt should be deemed to have beet initiated in this case, when a reference was made to this Court on 2.9.74 by the Presiding Officer of the subordinate court, that is, the Court of Sub Divisional Magistrate, Bhinmal, within the period of one year, from the date on which the contumacious matter was published in the news paper, The above con tendon has no force, because the date for initiation of proceedings for contempt in the instant case is the date on which Hon'ble the Chief justice tool action on a reference made to this Court by the subordinate court, that is, the Court of Sub Divisional Magistrate, Bhinmal, and issued notices to the non petitioners' and to the Public Prose Prosecutor fixing a date of hearing before the Division Bench, the date on which the action was taken on the reference by Hon'ble the Chief Justice is 25.9.75; as stated earlier. Since the contumacious matter was published in the news paper beyond the period of one year from the date on which Hon'ble the Chief Justice issued notices to the condemners, no action can be takers by us against, the non-petitioners because Section 20 of the Act clearly lays down that,-
No court shall initiate any proceeding for contempt, either on its own motion or otherwise, after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed.
10. it was contended by Mr. H.M. Parekh, the learned Counsel for the non petitioners, that proceedings for criminal contempt can be initiated only when the Division Bench constituted to hear and determine the case of criminal contempt, issues Notices to the condemners under Section 17(1) of the Act after applying its mind to the alleged contumacious act or the matter, The above contention, does not appear to be devoid of force, but in the instant case assuming that Hon'ble the Chief Justice was empowered under the law to issue notices to the non-petitioners fixing a date of hearing before the Division Bench of this Court, the proceedings for contempt were initiated against the non-petitioners on 25.9.75 beyond the period of one year from the date on which the contempt was alleged to have been, committed. Hence, we do not like to express any opinion on the merits of the above contention raised by Mr. H.M. Parekh.
11. Mr. A.K. Mathur, learned Public Prosecutor, further contended that the date of initiation of proceedings for contempt in the present case h date, that is, 5 10.74, on which Hon'ble the Chief Justice called for the opinion of the Government Advocate, when the reference made to this Court by the subordinate court, Was put up before him for orders The above contention if not acceptable because on 5.10.74 Hon'ble the Chief Justice did not make up his mind to take any action or initiate any proceedings for contempt against the non-petitioners. He merely called for the opinion of the Government Advocate in the matter placed before him. It is only on 25 9.76 that he considered the opinion of the Government Advocate and applied mind to the alleged contemptuous matter and decided to issue notices to the non-petitioners fixing a date of bearing before the Division Bench. Hence, the proceedings for contempt cannot be held to have been initiated on 5-4-74. Reference in this connection may be made to an authority of Allahabad High Court G.N. Verma v. Hargovind Dayal : AIR1975All52 , wherein their Lordships were pleased to make the following observations on the point of limitation in para 39 at page 64:
This takes us to the case of contemner No. 1. Notice was issued to him on 18th of February 1974 According to Section 20 of the Act of 1971, proceedings for contempt cannot be initiated after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed The first accusation in the case is that on February 3, 1973, the Avadh Bar Association of which the contemner No. 1 is the president, passed a resolution in which it was inter alia stated that the amalgamation order vests the Chief Justice with power to transfer cases of the territory of Auadh to Allahabad and which power in practical working had been abused and misused. Since this resolution was passed beyond a period of one year from the date on which we issued notice to contemner No. 1, it is not open to us to take that resolution into consideration against him.
12. Consequently, we have no hesitation in holding that proceedings for contempt w re initiated against the non-petitioners beyond a period of one year from date on which the contempt was alleged to have been committed. In this view of the matter the proceedings for contempt are time barred and no action under the Act can be taken by us against the contemners. The notices issued to the non-petitioners are, therefore, discharged.