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Asoke Kumar Sarkar and anr. Vs. Radha Kanto Pandey and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMedia and Communication;Contempt of Court
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Misc. Case Nos. 206 and 214 of 1965
Judge
Reported inAIR1967Cal178,1967CriLJ455
ActsContempt of Courts Act, 1952 - Section 1; ;Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 499 and 500
AppellantAsoke Kumar Sarkar and anr.
RespondentRadha Kanto Pandey and ors.
Appellant AdvocateA.K. Dutt, ;Prasum Chandra Ghosh and ;Promode Ranjan Roy, Advs. in No. 206/65 and ;N.C. Banerjee, ;N.C. Talukdar and ;A.K. Basu, Advs. in No. 214/65
Respondent AdvocateN. Dutt Majumdar and ;R.P. Lahiri, Advs. for No. 1, ;I.P. Mukharji, ;D.P. Mukharji and ;Sushil Kumar Basu II, Advs. for No. 4 and ;Sisir Kumar Das, Adv. for Nos. 2 and 3 in Nos. 206 and 214 of 165
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases ReferredCourt v. Court. If
Excerpt:
media and communication - contempt - letter written by solicitor referring to news article, which published defamatory statements was alleged to alleged to be contempt of court when criminal case regarding it was pending before court - solicitor's letter of demand of compensation does not constitute contempt of court - as same does not interfere with pending case in criminal court - rule discharged. - mukharji, j.1. this is a rule in contempt. sri. a.k. sarkar, editor, anandabazar patrika and sri suresh chandra bhattacharya, printer and publisher, anandabazar patrika are the petitioners who obtained this rule to commit to prison these four persons. (1) kadha kanta pandey, (2) monoranjan bhowmick, (3) ratan maheswari and (4) s.c. chowdhuri. the first three opposite parties are representation thesoulmari ashram and sri s.n. choudhuri, the fourth opposite party is their solicitor on record.2. the main and the only ground for contempt is stated to be a letter written by the solicitor opposite party s.n. chaudhari to the petitioner dated 16th august. 1965 in which the solicitor under instructions from the first three opposite parties and members of the soulmari ashram, complained of an item.....
Judgment:

Mukharji, J.

1. This is a Rule in contempt. Sri. A.K. Sarkar, Editor, Anandabazar Patrika and Sri Suresh Chandra Bhattacharya, Printer and Publisher, Anandabazar Patrika are the petitioners who obtained this Rule to commit to prison these four persons. (1) Kadha Kanta Pandey, (2) Monoranjan Bhowmick, (3) Ratan Maheswari and (4) S.C. Chowdhuri. The first three opposite parties are representation theSoulmari Ashram and Sri S.N. Choudhuri, the fourth opposite party is their Solicitor on record.

2. The main and the only ground for contempt is stated to be a letter written by the Solicitor opposite party S.N. Chaudhari to the petitioner dated 16th August. 1965 in which the Solicitor under instructions from the first three opposite parties and members of the Soulmari Ashram, complained of an item of news made, printed and published by the said Paper which was alleged to be defamatory. The letter of the Solicitor in the penultimate paragraph stated.

'If you fail or neglect to furnish the information asked for and comply with the requisition contained in the preceding paragraph and also to publish your unqualified apology in bold types in a prominent place of the Anandabazar Patrika within seven days from receipt thereof, my clients will take it that you refuse to comply with the requisition contained herein, and you are in the premises willing to accept full responsibility therefor, and my clients will proceed further accordingly as they may be advised without any further reference to you.'

The damage assessed in that letter is Rupees 5,00,000 for this defamation.

3. The contention is that this Solicitor's letter is a contempt of the Court of the Sub-Divisional Magistate, Jalpaiguri where a complaint is pending against the two petitioners in this Rule and another Sri Amiya Nath Bose. The complaint pending before the Sub-Divisional Magistrate is under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code. The Soulmari Ashram represented by Mr. Monoranjan Bhowmik filed this complaint under Section 500 of Indian Penal Code, complaining against the publication on the 3rd November 1964 in the Third Dak Edition of the Daily Issue of the newspaper the Anandabazar Patrika of a particular news item mentioned in paragraph 7 of the annexure to the petition here. It was stated in the petition of complaint that Soulmari Ashram represented by Monoranjan Bhowmick were the aggrieved persons within the meaning of Section 198 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. In that complaint the complainants asked for cognizance of the case and issue of a process against the accused persons under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code directing them to appear before the Court and stand trial, the accused persons there being the two petitioners here namely the Editor and the Printer of the Ananda Bazar Patrika and another Sri Amiya Nath Bose.

4. The main facts therefore lie within a clear and narrow compass. The alleged offending publication was made on the 3rd November 1964. The complaint under Section 500 I P. C. was made on the 29th December 1964. It was on that date, 29th December, 1964 that a process was issued and summons was also issued directing the Editor and Printer to appear on 5-2-65 before the Magistrate. Thereupon OB the 12th April 1965 the present petitioner made an application under Section 205 Cr. P. C. for appearance through lawyers which was refused Against that a proceeding has been taken to this High Court and the hearing of the complaint under Section 500 I. P. C. has been stayed. A reference to that effect is pending in this Court and so far as it appears the date of the reference was the 27th July, 1965. The Solicitor's notice for the Civil suit for damages for defamation was issued on the 16th August, 1965. No reply to the Solicitor's letter of demand was given by the petitioners. Instead of giving any such reply an application was straightaway made on the 20th September 1965, one month after the date of the Solicitor's letter of demand, moving this Court for a Rule in contempt. The contempt rule was issued ex parte on the 20th September, 1965, but before it was served a civil suit for damages for defamation had been filed on the very next day, 21st September, 1965.

5. Mr. Dutt appearing for the petitioners has submitted before us that this letter from the Solicitor is an intimidation and by demanding an apology, the criminal trial under Section 500 I. P. C. has been prejudiced because the accused if they published an apology would be really pleading guilty to the charge that is pending trial. The argument has an apparent attraction but no substance.

6. The Solicitor's letter of demand in this case made no mention whatever of the pending criminal trial under Section 500 I. P. C. In fact the Solicitor in his affidavit before this Court has stated that he knew nothing about the criminal defamation under Section 500 I. P. C. or the proceeding thereunder or the complaint filed thereunder. The Solicitor's affidavit is that his clients Monoranjan Bhowmick, Radhakanta Pandey and Ratan Maheswari did not give any instruction to him about the pending criminal proceeding under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code.

7. It is difficult to see how in such circumstances this Solicitor's letter of demand in the facts of this case, can be said to constitute contempt of the Magistrate's Court and the proceeding thereunder under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code. A person aggrieved by defamation has a right to proceed both in the civil Court as well as in the criminal Court. He can take either the one or the other or both the courses. Law does not debar him from enforcing civil and criminal rights at the same time.

8. The petitioners' contention that the Solicitor's letter of demand constituted contempt cannot be accepted for the simple reason that a reply to that effect could have been given by the petitioners. The petitioners could easily have said in answer to that Solicitor's letter either that a criminal proceeding was pending and therefore they were not in a position to comply with the requisition of the Solicitor or that they would not publish an apology as required by the Solicitor as that would implicate them in the pending criminal case. No such reply or answer was ever given by the petitioners in this case. How therefore was the administration of criminal justice interfered with on these facts, is difficult to imagine. We are satisfied that the Solicitor's letter in this case neither interfered with the criminal justice nor even tended or was calculated to interfere with it and showed no tendency whatever to deflect the course of criminal justice.

9. On the contrary, it shows how the mind of the petitioners was working. Without even a reply to the Solicitor's letter stating that they would not comply with the Solicitor's requisition because of the pending criminal proceeding, it is these petitioners who without notice, without any intimation to the opposite parties came straight to this Court without even acknowledging the receipt of the Solicitor's letter of demand and obtained an ex parte rule in contempt. The solicitor's letter, therefore, in this case cannot be said to coerce or intimidate the petitioners at all. A simple reply as indicated above would have explained the petitioner's position.

10. In that view of the matter Mr. Dutt's submission that a letter of demand by the Solicitor was not condition precedent before filing a civil suit for damage for defamation, is irrelevant. Normally and almost universally the practice in a civil suit for defamation is a prior Solicitor's letter demanding damage or apology or both. It is a normal, natural and conventional part of the civil law and procedure of defamation. In strict law the Solicitor's demand is not a condition precedent for a suit for defamation claiming damages, but it is only a natural and appropriate step to take to notify a person that he will be faced with a suit for damage for a particular amount unless he apologises or unless e does certain things. In the absence of such a notice the question of motive and question of cost in a suit for damage may become important. In some of the Canadian Provinces it is a condition precedent to an action for newspaper libel that the plaintiff shall give the defendant notice in writing specifying the particular statements of which he complains. No doubt, such is not the law here in India. From that point of view it cannot be said in India that the letter of demand is a condition precedent to an action for damages for defamation in a civil suit. Rut the letter of demand in a civil suit for damages for defamation is almost a universal practice in India. In fact, Gatley on Libel and Slander, Fourth Edition at page 432 speaking of English law on the point, which is more like the law in India than Canada on the point, observed:

'No such notice is requisite under our law. It is however, always advisable to give the defendant an opportunity before writ to withdraw and apologise. Such a letter will help to show that the plaintiff's real object is to vindicate his character and not merely to make money out of the attack. Moreover, a refusal to withdraw and express regret for statements that are without foundation is a matter which the jury, may take into consideration in assessing damages. And, if the reply to the demand for an apology be a letter of abuse or reiteration of the charge, such letter will materially strengthen the plaintiffs case if malice is an issue in the action.' This is the common sense justification of the universal practice of Solicitor's letter of demand before filing a civil suit for damages for defamation and its essential Raison d'etre. Mr. Dutt's submission apparently was that if a notice for a suit for defamation was not necessary then to give a notice of such a character while a criminal proceeding is pending, invariably constitutes contempt of such criminal proceeding. In the view that we have taken we are unable to accept that unqualified submission.

11. On behalf of the petitioners reliance has been placed on the decision of the Allahabad High Court in Rajendra Singh v. Uma Prasad : AIR1935All117 . There in that case notice was held undoubtedly to put extraneous pressure on the defendant in order to compel him under the threat of drastic action being taken against him to withdraw the plea which had been taken by him specifically in the written statement. Indeed there in that case an offer also was made to desist from taking legal action if within a certain time fixed the defendant withdrew the plea contained in his written statement. Therefore the court came to the conclusion there that there could be no doubt that the effect that was intended to be produced on the mind of the defendant's guardian by this notice was to compel him to abandon the plea which might well have been a legitimate plea in the written statement. This case is distinguishable on many points from the instant case before the Court, In the first place, this was not a case of a civil suit for defamation and a criminal proceeding for defamation under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, a point with which we are directly concerned in this Rule. Secondly in that case, there was no doubt that there was a direct interference with the administration of justice as pointed out by the learned Judges at page 118 of that report. Indeed the attempt there was to compel withdrawal of a plea already taken in the written statement pending trial. The present case before us is very different, and makes no such attempt.

12. Indeed the case much nearer to the facts of the present case is the later decision of the same High Court in Kamta Prasad v. Ram Agyan, reported in : AIR1952All674 which incidentally clearly distinguishes the case of : AIR1935All117 . In Kamta Prasad's case : AIR1952All674 a Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court observed that if there was a threat held out against a party to a legal proceeding not to proceed with it or to drop a plea which he had legitimately taken and the threat was that if that was not done, then some harm would be caused to that party either by way of a bodily injury or injury to reputation or in some other way, the threat constituted an interference with the administration of justice and was contempt of Court. But the Allahabad High Court in Kamta Prasad's case : AIR1952All674 drew the distinction that if the threat was not express, but was implied in the fact of a party instituting a criminal complaint or taking some civil proceeding which put the former party to loss, then in that case there was no interference with the administration of justice because everybody was entitled to take recourse to law. The Court there goes further to observe that if there is a simple demand for payment of damages because of the use of some defamatory expression in a pending proceeding, and the demand is not coupled with a request for the withdrawal of the pending proceeding, or a plea taken therein, the demand for damages does not amount to interference with the administration of justice. It is this last observation that is material to the point before us. The learned Judges of the Division Bench in Kamta Prasad s case : AIR1952All674 make the proposition clear that if there is a demand for the withdrawal of certain words or expressions used in a pending proceeding coupled with a threat that action will be taken if the words or expressions used are not withdrawn, then if the words or expressions were scandalous, unnecessary or irrelevant, such a threat does not amount to interference with the administration of justice, on the obvious ground that the Civil Procedure Code makes ample provisions for striking off scandalous pleadings.

13. This Division Bench authority in : AIR1952All674 is a direct authority against thecontention now put forward by the petitioners.In that case the accused in a criminal proceedingunder Section 406 of the Indian Penal Codeaddressed a notice to the opposite party givinghis version of the facts and offering an amicablesettlement of the dispute provided the proceedings were withdrawn and stating that it thatwas not done he would proceed civilly andcriminally as he might be legally advised andon not receiving any reply, filed a counter complaint under Section 420 and Section 500 of theIndian Penal Code. The Division Bench of theAllahabad High Court held that neither thenotice nor filing of the counter case constitutedan interference with the administration of justiceso as to amount to contempt of Court. See theobservation of Raghubar Dayal. J. at pages 676678.

14. The present case, as pointed out by us on the facts, is a much stronger case to hold that the Solicitor's letter cannot constitute contempt because there in the Allahabad case the notice stated among other points, 'We shall immediately forward you the draft for the said sum on learning that you will withdraw your criminal complaint filed against our Mr. Singh' and even then it was held that it did not constitute contempt. No allegation or no suggestion is made here that the solicitor or his clients suggested by this letter of demand withdrawal or abandonment of the defence the accused took up against the pending proceeding under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code.

15. The fallacy of Mr. Dutt's argument for the petitioners lies in this that he was all the time assuming that compliance with the requisition of the Solicitor's letter of demand by publishing an apology would mean pleading guilty in the criminal Court. But nobody-compelled the petitioners to make that plea of guilty. If the petitioners wanted to plead guilty, they might do so even in the criminal trial on that charge. If the petitioners wanted to plead not guilty they could equally do so and the trial would be held. Similarly with the Solicitor's letter of demand, nobody was compelling the petitioners to comply with the Solicitor's requests. The Solicitor's demand in his letter could be refused by the petitioners if that was the case of the petitioners. Where is the question of interference with the administration of justice or attempt to interfere with such proceeding? We and none. The Solicitor's letter of demand is pot even calculated to interfere with criminal justice.

16. Again, it may be observed that in the last Allahabad case in : AIR1952All674 the offence was not compoundable, but an offence under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code is compoundable. Even in the case of a non-compoundable offence the letter of demand was lead by Raghubar Dayal, J. in Kamta Prosad's case : AIR1952All674 as more in the nature of a certain settlement outside the Court and not a threat to the administration of justice. How very much stronger is the present case which is a compoundable offence under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code?

17. Mr. Dutt for the petitioners made a reference to Lord Denning's judgment in Chapman v. Honig, reported in (1963) 2 Q. B. 502. The difficulty with the Judgment of Lord Denning M.R. in that case is that it was a dissenting judgment and the majority was against the view that Lord Denning took. The ease there was a case of victimisation of a witness after evidence and how far that was contempt. The present case, therefore, is very different from that case. There the question was about a notice to quit and how far that gave rise to contempt in a proceeding between a landlord and a tenant. The motive there suggested was that evidence was given by the tenant in an action against the landlord and a notice to quit was served to punish the tenant for giving such evidence against the landlord. The law was clearly stated by Pearson, L. J. at page 520 of that report where the following observation was made:-

'The act complained, the service of the notice to quit, was on the face of it a lawful exercise of a contractual right, duly implemented in accordance with the provisions of the tenancy agreement and effective to terminate the tenant's estate and to convert the landlord's interest from an estate In reversion to an estate in possession. Common experience is that, when file validity of an act done in purported exercise of a right under a contract or other instrument is disputed, the inquiry is limited to ascertaining whether the act has Seen done in accordance with the provisions of the contract or other instrument. I cannot think of any case in which such an act might be invalidated by proof that it was prompted by some vindictive or other wrong motive. Motive is disregarded as irrelevant. A person who has a right under a contract or other instrument is entitled to exercise it and can effectively exercise it for a good reason or a bad reason or no reason at all.'

18. Pearson, L. J. expressed it more emphatically at page 522 of that report by observing:-

'The main reason is that the same act as between the same parties cannot reasonably be supposed to be both lawful and unlawful--in the sphere of contract, valid and effective to achieve its object, and in the sphere of tort wrongful and imposing a tortious liability.'

Mr. Dutt made also a reference to the learned Single Judge's decision in Ma Sein Tin v. U. Kyaw Maung reported in AIR 1936 Rang 332. There the question really was not on this point but turned more on the quantum of calculation of damages. It was said that where a person first prosecuted the defendant for defamation In a criminal Court was convicted and afterward sued him for damages, the action of the plaintiff in pursuing both remedies could be taken into consideration in awarding damages. That is a proposition which will be clear on the statute itself by a bare reference to Sections 545 and 546 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. A division Bench of the Madras High Court in Venkayya Pantulu v. Surya Prakasamma, ILR 1941 Mad 255: (AIR 1940 Mad 379) came to the contrary conclusion that the fact that there was a criminal prosecution for defamation and a conviction obtained before a civil suit for damages therefor was filed, was not by itself a reason for reducing the amount of damages to be awarded in the suit and tie law granted both remedies to the wronged person and a party who availed himself of one remedy after another was entitled to get as much compensation as he would otherwise get. There however, the Madras judgment failed to take notice of the clear statutory provisions contained in Sections 54ft and 546 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. A Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in Hirabai Jehangir v. Dinshaw Edulji : AIR1927Bom22 on the other hand observed at page 183 (of ILR Bom): (at page 28 of AIR) that on the quantum of damages the civil Court might recognise that the defendant had already been punished in a criminal Court and take that into consideration in awarding civil damages.

19. Before concluding this part of the case the actual statutory provision in the Criminal Procedure Code may be emphasised. Section 546 of the Code of Criminal Procedure lays down At the time of awarding compensation in any subsequent civil suit relating to the same matter, the Court shall take into account any sum paid or recovered as compensation under Section 545'. This is mandatory obligation upon the civil Court. The actual provision of Section 545 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is, inter alia, as follows:-

'Whenever under any law in force for the time being a Criminal Court imposes a fine or confirms in appeal, revision or otherwise a sentence of fine, or a sentence of which fine forms a part, the Court may, when passing judgment, order the whole or any part of the fine recovered to be applied .........

(b) in the payment to any person of compensation for any loss or injury caused by the offence, when substantial compensation is, in the opinion of the Court, recoverable by such person in a Civil Court'.

20. Venkatammana Rao, J. in Pattabhirama China Govinda Charyulu v. P. Seshagiri Rao, AIR 1941 Mad 860 points out that 'A certain act might give rise to a cause of action in tort and at the same time furnish a ground for a criminal complaint. One remedy is different from the other and any adjustment of the criminal complaint would not operate as an accord and satisfaction of the civil action for damages. In one case in the interests of the State the wrongdoer is punished whereas in the other compensation is awarded to the person who suffers by the injury. Therefore, unless at the time of giving the unconditional apology on which the criminal complaint is withdrawn it was specifically agreed between the parties that the acceptance of the apology should also operate as an accord and satisfaction of the civil action for damages for the libel, a civil action for damages is not barred'. The limits of this Madras decision must be clearly recognised. Fine on a conviction under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code is certainly not 'an accord and satisfaction' of the Civil claim for damages in a civil suit for defamation, but nevertheless the civil Court is bound to take into consideration the fine paid in assessing the quantum of damages for defamation under the express mandate of Section 545 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

21. Naturally there are certain obvious common features between a civil action for damages for defamation and a criminal complaint for defamation under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code. The essence of the cause of action in the civil suit for damages is the tortious liability for compensation for the damage to or loss in reputation suffered by the aggrieved party. Naturally, damages in a civil action for defamation, with of course a few exceptions, are always much heavier than fine in a criminal proceeding in contempt under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code. Harm to the reputation is also the main ground in a criminal defamation under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code just as much as harm to the reputation is the essence of the cause of action in a civil suit for damages. Harm to the reputation is therefore a common ground. Punishment of course in the criminal proceeding is provided in Section 500 I. P. C. which means a sentence of imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine or with both. Conviction and sentence of imprisonment therefore, are the essential features of the criminal defamation and not a civil defamation, The exceptions to the criminal defamation provided in Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code are also indicative of the test of civil and criminal defamation. Truth necessarily is the defence both in civil and criminal defamation, but the first exception to Section 499 I. P. C. insists that in addition to truth, the imputation must be shown to have been made for public good. Public good therefore is an overriding relevant consideration in a criminal defamation which is concerned with the protection of the society unlike a private suit for damages for defamation. Again, in a criminal defamation public conduct of a public servant is a defence within limits so long as it is in good faith and respecting only public conduct and no further. Again, in the third exception, conduct of any person touching any public question, is a defence in a criminal defamation within its, so long as the imputation or opinion touches public character and conduct and is made in good faith. The public test in a criminaldefamation can be traced in other exceptions like 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th, exceptions. Public test as such is hardly a defence for a civil suit for damages in a private action. No doubt the normal public test in a civil suit that the reputation must be lowered has to be satisfied. It will not be necessary to pursue this matter any further except to say that in the imputations challenged in the publication in this case do concern public interest. We are purposely refraining from any discussion of the words or imputations here as they are sub Judice both at the criminal Court and in the civil suit.

22. In this view of the matter we are unable to accept the statement of law in the Law of Defamation and Malicious Prosecution by V. Mitter, 2nd Edition (1960) revised by Suranjan Chakravarty at pages 39-40 where it is stated 'Under the English law the person libelled may both sue for damages and indict and so in strict law he may. But practically he has to elect between the civil and the criminal remedy. Ho cannot take both civil and criminal proceedings at once; a Judge would stay one or the other. Strictly if he means to take both he should take criminal proceedings first. But an action for damages after the defendant had been either acquitted or convicted for the same libel would be very hopeless work. And so would a criminal prosecution after an action. After a rule for a criminal defamation has been made absolute no civil action can be brought. 'The above statement of the law appears to us unsound and incorrect. There is no question in our view of any election between civil and criminal remedy. An aggrieved person has both the remedies. The remedies also are not exactly commensurate. A civil remedy for damages does not include a sentence of imprisonment and the fine for criminal proceeding for defamation is not always commensurate with the damages in a civil suit. Similarly public interest is more emphasised in a criminal proceeding for defamation than in a civil action for damages. Nor do we think it Is possible for an aggrieved person to wait until a criminal proceeding for defamation is finally concluded because by that time the civil suit for damages might well become barred by limitation. In this case for instance, since the publication about a year, the period of limitation, was about to expire before the suit was filed and the solicitor's letter of demand was given only on the 16th August 1965 when the publication was on the 3rd November 1964 and one cannot therefore describe the solicitor's letter, in such facts and circumstances, as a hasty step.

23. Not only the decision of the recent Allahabad High Court in : AIR1952All674 is directly against the contention of the petitioners but so also is the well-known English decision in Webster v. Bakewell Rural District Council, 1916-1 Ch 300. There in that case the yearly tenant of a cottage and land, adjoining a high way and forming part of a settled estate, issued a writ against the local authority for an injunction to restrain an alleged trespass on his land. The solicitor of the tenant for life of the estate wrote to the local authority with a view to arrange the matter, and at the same time wrote to the tenant that the tenant for life required him to withdraw the writ, and that, if he did not comply, his tenancy would be determined. The tenant moved the Court to commit the solicitor for contempt of Court for sending him letters calculated to deter him from prosecuting the action and to prevent the administration of Justice. Neville J. held that the solicitor did not commit any contempt of Court and was anxious to point out that, while the jurisdiction which the Court exercised by way of punishment for contempt of Court where any attempt was made to suborn or interfere with the administration of justice, was a jurisdiction of extreme importance and should be steadfastly upheld, yet at the lame time, as it might involve the liberty of the subject the jurisdiction should be exercised with great care. This English decision was followed by a Division Bench of the Travancore Cochin High Court in Cheriyan Joseph v. Dr. James Kalacherry, AIR 1952 Trav. Co. 75. There the Vicar of a church forwarded a letter from his Bishop to a parishioner asking the latter to withdraw his suit against the Vicar and other persons for declaration that a certain resolution passed was null and void and for a permanent injunction, and it was found that the Vicar was not in any way responsible for the contents of the letter and had simply forwarded it in obedience to the Bishop s order. The Court therefore, held that the Vicar's action did not amount to contempt of Court and further held that the threat to assert one's legal rights against another, if he chose to continue an action started by him, would not amount to contempt. This case also distinguishes the case reported in : AIR1935All117 .

24. It remains now to refer to the last two cases which were cited for the petitioners by Mr. Dutt. The first case is : AIR1962SC1172 , Pratap Singh v. Gurbaksh Singh. This was a case which laid down the principle that as the action taken by the appellants against the respondent by way of instituting disciplinary proceeding against him at a time when his suit was pending in the civil Court could have only one tendency, namely, the tendency to coerce Kim and force him to withdraw his suit or face the consequences of disciplinary action and therefore, a tendency to interfere with the due course of justice, and therefore, it was held that the appellants were guilty of contempt of Court. The question there arose on a Government circular which provided that any attempt by a Government servant to seek a decision on such issues in a Court of law without first exhausting the normal official channels of redress, could only be regarded as contrary to official propriety and subversive of good discipline and might well justify the initiation of disciplinary action against the Government servant. The propriety of this rule was challenged. The other decision is one reported in Shankur Lal Sharma v. M.S. Bisht, : AIR1956All160 . It lays down the wholesome principle that if any kind of threat or any action which may amount to a threat is held out to a person who has approached the civil Courts for a redress of his grievances, with a view to induce him to forgo the assistance of the civil Courts, the action amounts to a contempt of Court. It is a clear interference with the right of every citizen who claims redress from the civil Courts for any grievance that he may have. No kind of Government order in this respect could excuse such an action.

25. These cases however, are concerned with the administration of justice by the Courts on one side and departmental enquiries and departmental justice on the other. The principle laid down in these decisions and by these authorities is simple. That principle is that administration of justice by the Courts cannot be interfered with by any other agencies, departmental or otherwise and if there is such interference that is contempt of Court. No such question arises in this case. It is not a case of departmental inquiry in this case. If at all. it is a case of Court v. Court. If at all, it is a case of criminal justice as against civil justice. That principle therefore, cannot apply. Justice through the Courts in its essential nature is one and indivisible. It does not matter in which Court that justice is being administered whether in Courts of criminal law or whether in Courts of civil law. The solicitor's letter in this case did not interfere, in fact or theory or even tend to interfere with any administration of criminal justice not only because it did not refer to any pending criminal proceeding under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, out also because all that it asked for was an apology which could have been answered by saying that either no apology would be given or that no answer would be given because of the pending criminal proceeding. There was therefore, no pressure on the administration of justice and no threat or coercion. Indeed, to accept the argument of Mr. Dutt for the petitioners would be to produce an ironical result that the very fact that his clients as petitioners are pursuing this Rule in contempt even after the civil suit for damages has been filed, is itself a contempt of the civil suit for damages now pending in this Court. That is why justice is said to be one and indivisible, civil or criminal and nothing should be done Lo put up a competition between the two at least on the basis of contempt of Court. To do that, will make the Courts face the insoluble situation of contempt of criminal Court as against the contempt of civil Court and it will be hard to resolve such a conflict between the two.

26. This disposes of the main argument made on behalf of the petitioners in this case. There remain, however, two other considerations to which some reference must be made before we conclude our judgment. It has been argued that opposite parties Radha Kanta Pandey, Monoranjan Bhowmick and Ratan Maheswari are formally and technically not parties to the criminal complaint and they are not by name complainants although they are all members of the Soulmari Ashram. Therefore, so far as their civil rights are concerned, they have committed no contempt because Soulmari Ashram represented by Monoranjan Bhowmick has instituted a criminal complaint under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code and that is pending. We are bound to say that the point is technically good.

27. The other point is that the petitioners are moving us in our jurisdiction to punish for contempt. It is a jurisdiction which should be used with a great circumspection. Persons who move the Court in this jurisdiction must place dependable materials before the Court, especially when they come with the allegations that a certain act interferes or tends or is calculated to interfere with the administration of justice, by the Court. It is strange that in this case the two petitioners not only did not sign the petition at all or even affirm the petition, but they only put up an employee of theirs to make affidavits for this unsigned petition. Besides, the petition in its material paragraphs 6 to 11 are mere submissions and is not even assertive of facts. What is submitted is that the Solicitor's letter has intimidated the petitioners and was calculated to stifle the defence of the petitioners. The petitioners did not sign these allegations. The petitioners did not affirm these as acts, but they put forward Subal Chandra Banerji, an employee, who has affirmed the mental condition of intimidation of his employers and even that he is doing on submission. That this Court considers to be not a proper way of moving in contempt. Great responsibility rests upon persons who wish to move this Court in contempt and contempt proceedings cannot be allowed to be started so lightly. We have purposely refrained from discussing the words of alleged defamation for the very simple reason that both the civil suit and the criminal proceeding are pending on the merits and demerits of those words of defamation. We, therefore, do not propose to say anything on that point in this Rule for contempt.

28. For these reasons and on the authorities cited above, this Rule must be discharged with costs assessed at six gold mohurs.

Miscellaneous Case No. 214 of 1965

29. This is a Rule obtained by Sri. Amiya Nath Bose. It raises the same points of fact and law. Therefore, our judgment already delivered in the other Rule will govern this case. The only point of distinction that Mr. Banerjee for the petitioner drew in the facts of this case was on the basis of the letter of Sri Haripada Mitra, Advocate, Jalpaiguri, dated 28th November, 1964 to the petitioner. We do not think that this letter makes any difference either in facts or in few. The letter in its concluding portion says this:

'Please take notice that you are hereby given two weeks time to deny if you so desire, your complicity with the making and publication of said offending allegations and imputations referred to above. In case I do not receive any satisfactory reply from you within two weeks from the receipt of this letter by your goodself, my clients will be painfully obliged to proceed against you, both civilly and criminally, as may be legally advised without any further reference to yon.

You are of course aware that my clients have repeatedly made it known to the public that the Founder of Shaulmari Ashram is not Netaji Shri Subhas Chandra Bose and have instituted legal proceedings against miscreants known to indulge in false propaganda concerning the Founder of the said Ashram and thereby seek to defraud the public.'

30. This appears to us no more a contempt than the Solicitor's letter which we have discussed in the other Rule and for the same reasons as stated there. We are satisfied that this letter does not constitute contempt of Court, nor does it interfere or tend to interfere with the administration of justice by the Magistrate's Court.

For these reasons and for reasons stated in the other Rule this Rule must also he discharged with costs which in this case we assess at three gold mohurs.

Das, J.

31. I agree.


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