S. Ramachandra Iyer, C.J.
(1) This is an application filed by the Advocate General for committing the respondent, S. V. Thondi, for contempt of court.
The respondent was a party to an appeal pending before the District Court, Ramanathapuram. He wrote an inland letter addressed to the Chief Justice of the High Court of Madras by registered post with acknowledgement due, making the allegation that the District Judge was corrupt. The letter also stated that the respondent apprehended that a just decision would not be rendered by the District Judge in the appeals pending before him. At the time when the letter was written, arguments in the appeals had been heard by the learned District Judge; but judgment had not been delivered. There can be little doubt that this letter amounted to gross contempt of court, inasmuch as it made a serious charge against the District Judge without any attempt at justification thereof. There can be little doubt also that the object of the respondent was to see that the appeals were transferred to some other judge even before the judgment in the case was delivered. Further, letter is prima facie of a libellous nature. The statement contained in it would undoubtedly, if published create misgivings and apprehensions in the minds of the litigants and the public as to the probity and impartiality of the District Judge.
(2) Mr. V.M. Lenin, counsel appearing for the respondent, expressed on behalf of his client unqualified regret for what he had done. But, unfortunately, learned counsel coupled that expression of regret with argument that the writing of a letter in those terms would be merely an impropriety not amounting to contempt. An apology in proceedings for contempt can hardly be coupled with an argument of innocence. We therefore felt it our duty to consider whether, notwithstanding the apology, the respondent was guilty of the contempt.
In this connection learned counsel has referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in Brahma Prakash Sharma v. State of Uttar Pradesh, : 1954CriLJ238 to support his contention that allegations against the probity of a Judge would not amount to a contempt. The decision, however, far form supporting the respondent, is really against him. In that case, a Bar Association passed a resolution against two officers of the Judicial Department stating that they were 'in competent in law' to do judicial work and that they did not inspire confidence and were given to stating wrong facts in passing orders etc. The Supreme Court held that, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the contempt was of a technical character and that the High Court which took notice of the contempt, should have dropped the charges, in view of the fact that the respondent had by then tendered unqualified apology.
The Supreme Court, however, pointed out that, before the question whether a particular criticism of a presiding officer would amount to contempt or not can be answered, the court has got to see.
'Whether it is in any ways calculated to interfere with the due administration of justice in these courts, or, in other words, whether such statement is likely to give rise to an apprehension in the minds of litigants as to the ability of the two Judicial officers to deal properly with the cases coming before them or even to embarrass the officers themselves in the discharge of their duties.'
Judged by this test, there can be little doubt that the respondent, in imputing corruption to the District Judge, committed contempt, for, the statement contained in the letter, if published, would create an apprehension in the minds of the litigants as to the impartiality and probity of the District Judge.
(3) It is next contended that the letter in the present case was not intended for publication and that therefore it cannot be said that the allegations contained therein, though of a serious nature, could in bay way bring down the reputation of the Judge. Support for that argument was sought in the decision of the Allahabad High Court in State of Uttar Pradesh v. Shyam Sunderlal Jain, : AIR1954All308 . However, we are unable to see how that decision can have any application to the present case. Here, the respondent did intend that his letter should be published. He invited an enquiry on the allegation contained in that letter. The object, as we said, was to remove the case form the file of the District Judge to some other court. The contention that the letter was not intended to be published and that, therefore, the libellous statements, contained therein should be taken serious notice of, cannot therefore be accepted.
(4) But, in view of the regret now expressed before us, we have to consider whether we should proceed after treating him guilty of contempt to punish him or whether it would be sufficient in all the circumstances of the case to deal with him lightly by merely admonishing him.
(5) The respondent has today filed a counter affidavit in this court, which, while apologising unreservedly for his letter, proceeds to give vague justification for that letter. He says that he found a son of the defendant in the appeal pending, before the District Judge entering the District Judge's bungalow at 6 p.m. on 28-3-1964, and that, form that, he, in his distressed state of mind, concluded, for which conclusion he now regrets that the entry was not for a legitimate purpose. This statement was not contained in the letter, which forms the subject matter of the contempt. Secondly, the statement itself appears to us to be too vague to be accepted.
(6) Notwithstanding the fact that the respondent has proceeded to give a false explanation for his letter, we do not consider that, in all the circumstances of the present case, any serious action need be taken against him. He was, undoubtedly, a disappointed litigant, and by the time the arguments were over, he must have though that his chances of success before the District Judge were remote. This disappointment, perhaps, induced him,--he does not appear to be a man of much education--top writ the letter he did, which, he now accepts, was very improper for him to have done. Under the circumstances, we consider that, while holding him guilty of contempt, it would be sufficient to admonish him. Ordered accordingly.
(7) The respondent will pay the costs of the Government.
(8) Order accordingly.