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R. Ramasrinivasan Vs. P. Shanmugham - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContempt of Court
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberContempt Appln. No. 4 of 1968
Judge
Reported inAIR1969Mad378
ActsEvidence Act, 1872 - Sections 123 and 162; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) , 1908 - Order 11, Rule 14; Contempt of Courts Act, 1952 - Sections 3
AppellantR. Ramasrinivasan
RespondentP. Shanmugham
Appellant AdvocateN. Arunachalam, Adv.;Public Prosecutor
Respondent AdvocateMohan Kumaramangalam, Adv. for ;M. Natarajan, Adv. and ;M. Ravindran, Adv.
DispositionProceedings dismissed
Cases ReferredConway v. Rihoor
Excerpt:
- - the state could well claim in such a case that that part of the document is privileged. the situation now is that the documents have to be produced for inspection by the court, and that disclosure would be ordered if the court was satisfied that there was no prejudice to public interest, or, the possibility of such prejudice. we are satisfied that the speaker, in this case, was aware of his responsibilities, and that he declined to make any further comment, in view of the pendency of the case in a criminal court......a record, viz. in this case, the record by a police officer, under departmental instructions, of a public speech made by a citizen.2. very briefly stated, the affidavit of the petitioner (ramasrinivasan) is to the effect that the respondent (p. shanmugbam, m. l. a.) addressed a public meeting on 5th may 1968 at pondicherry, during the course of which meeting, inter alia, he referred to the actions of a certain sri farook maricar, while that gentleman was chief minister of the state, in wreaking vengeance upon those who were responsible for his downfall. he is then supposed to have said, according to the affidavit of the petitioner, that 'the case of jeevarathina udayar is one of such instances'. it is not disputed that at that time, there was a case against a certain jeevarathina udayar,.....
Judgment:

M. Anantanarayanan, C.J.

1. The proceeding before us is a simple one in essence, and the facts are within a restricted scope. But it involves one question of some significance, on the principles which have to be applied when the State claims privilege under Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act read with Section 162 of that Act, with regard to the production of a record, viz. in this case, the record by a police officer, under departmental instructions, of a public speech made by a citizen.

2. Very briefly stated, the affidavit of the petitioner (Ramasrinivasan) is to the effect that the respondent (P. Shanmugbam, M. L. A.) addressed a public meeting on 5th May 1968 at Pondicherry, during the course of which meeting, inter alia, he referred to the actions of a certain Sri Farook Maricar, while that gentleman was Chief Minister of the State, in wreaking vengeance upon those who were responsible for his downfall. He is then supposed to have said, according to the affidavit of the petitioner, that 'the case of Jeevarathina Udayar is one of such instances'. It is not disputed that at that time, there was a case against a certain Jeevarathina Udayar, with respect to a very grave offence, pending committal enquiry in the court of the First Class Magistrate, Pondicherry. It is claimed that this constitutes grave contempt of Court, as such a statement is calculated to affect the administration of justice.

3. In the counter affidavit of the respondent he denies that he made any such statement or reference, and, on the contrary, he claims that some one in the crowd asked him (the speaker) a question about Jeevarathina Udayar's case being another instance of the wreaking of vengeance, that he then explained that the matter was pending before a court of law and sub judice, and that it would not be proper to discuss it at a public meeting. As it was brought to our notice that, under the departmental instructions of the Inspector General of Police, Pondicherry, an officer had been deputed to attend this meeting, and to make a shorthand transcript of this speech, notice was issued to that authority, viz. the Inspector General to produce this transcript. The learned Public Prosecutor for Pondicherry, appearing for the Inspector General of Police, has now produced the transcript, in a sealed cover, and pleaded privilege with regard to its production, under Section 123 and Section 162 of the Indian Evidence Act.

4. The scope of these two sections, taken together, has been clarified by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in State of Punjab v. Sukhdev Singh, : [1961]2SCR371 . That was also a case in which Section 123 and Section 162 of the Evidence Act had to be read together, and applied to the relevant facts. The Supreme Court observed that the court was not merely competent, but was also bound, to hold an enquiry to determine the validity of the objections to production, and that this necessarily involved the enquiry into the question whether the evidence related to an affair of State under Section 123 or not. If the court came to the conclusion that the document related to an affair of State, the court should leave it to the Head of the department to decide whether he should permit its production or not. Their Lordships also made certain observations upon the difference between the law in this country and the law in the United Kingdom, in this respect.

5. We might immediately state, even apart from the nature of this particular document, which we have scrutinised for the initial purpose of testing the validity of the objection urged by the State, that It would be far too broad a claim to make, that officers deputed to transcribe in shorthand the speeches of persons at public meetings, under departmental Instructions, should generally be permitted through the procedure prescribed under statute, to object to the production of the transcript as relating to affairs of State. Public meetings are held very frequently, in this country, and addressed by a variety of persons, upon all conceivable topics; many of these meetings relate to public questions, which are, in no conceivable sense, 'affairs of State'. For their own purpose, the authorities may desire to have the transcripts of speeches made at such public meetings, and, it would be too wide a proposition, altogether, to lay down that every such transcript, relates to, or embodies, matters connected with 'affairs of States', Certainly, certain speeches at certain meetings may be of this character, and conceivably the disclosure of transcripts of such cases which might be prejudicial. It is even conceivable that in an otherwise innocuous or unrelated speech, some passage might occur, which touches upon affairs of State, the disclosure of which might occasion prejudice. The State could well claim in such a case that that part of the document is privileged. In the present case, the speech related entirely to matters of public interest, concerned with the record of administration of a Ministry, which every citizen had the right to criticise. There is nothing secret about the speech, or the averments in his speech, nor docs any part of it relate to a topic that could be segregated as an affair of State. The mere fact that the record was made by a police officer, and confidentially forwarded to his superior, would not render the document privileged under Section 123 read with Section 162 of the Evidence Act.

6. Mr. Mohan Kumaramangalam for the respondent has also drawn our attention to the decision of the House of Lords in Conway v. Rihoor, 1988 2 W L R 998, and the situation at law, even in the United Kingdom now appears to have undergone a considerable alteration; the situation now is that the documents have to be produced for inspection by the court, and that disclosure would be ordered if the Court was satisfied that there was no prejudice to public interest, or, the possibility of such prejudice. Accordingly, without enunciating any general proposition to cover all such transcripts or reports, we hold that, on the facts of this particular case, and having regard to this particular document, privilege cannot be claimed for it under Section 123 and Section 162 of the Evidence Act, T.

7. We may now proceed to consider the part of the document which concerns the alleged contempt of court of justice, Here, the report substantiates, more or less, the claim made by the respondent in his counter affidavit. The case of Mr. Jeevarathna Udayar is no doubt referred to, and the reference occurs in the context of some alleged action taken by Mr. Farook Maricar to wreak vengeance against those who worked for his downfall. But the speaker explicitly declares that the case itself is in court, pending trial, and sub judice, and that he would, therefore, refrain from any discussion about it, or any further reference, from a public platform.

Under those circumstances, and in view of the explicit cautionary trends in the speech, we do not think that the interests of justice require that we should proceed further with this action, invoking our jurisdiction relating to contempt of court or contempt of the administration of justice. We are satisfied that the speaker, in this case, was aware of his responsibilities, and that he declined to make any further comment, in view of the pendency of the case in a criminal court.

8. The proceeding is accordingly dismissed. No coats.


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