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RAGHUVEER SINGH v SHIV KUMAR SWAMI & ORS - CRLCP Case No. 2 of 2002  RD-RJ 446 (21 March 2006)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE FOR RAJASTHAN AT
D.B. CRIMINAL CONTEMPT PETITION NO.2/2002
(Raghuveer Singh V/s 1. Shiv Kumar Swami 2. Het Ram Beniwal 3. Navrang Chaudhary 4. Bhuramal Swami 5. Hardeep Singh and 6. Sheopat Singh
Date of Judgment : 21/3/2006
HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE RAJESH BALIA
HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE R.P.VYAS
Mr.N.M. Lodha, Addl. Advocate General.
Mr.M.D. Purohit, Sr. Advocate with
Mr.Anand Purohit, }
Mr. Kuldeep Mathur }
Mr.D.L. Rawla } for the petitioner.
Mr. Hamir Singh Sidhu, for respondent No.1.
Mr. M. Mridul, Sr. Advocate with
Mr.R.S.Choudhary, for the respondents No.2 to 6.
Respondents no.2 to 6 present in Court.
BY THE COURT: (PER HON'BLE RAJESH BALIA, J.)
In newspaper "Lok Sammat" published from Sri
Ganganagar dated 24/2/2001, the following Headline was published :
Under the detailed report dated 24/2/2001, it was stated firstly that addressing hundreds of workers assembled in front of Collectorate,
Sriganganagar, the leaders of communist Party levelled sharp allegations against judiciary.
Incriminating statements were attributed to Het Ram
Beniwal, Navrang Choudhary, Bhuramal Swami,
Advocate, Hardeep Singh and Sheopat Singh.
Following statements were attributed to the respective speakers:
- ! $ % & ' ) $ )+ !, - + ! % $ ) +! 1, ! + ! ) 6 ! + ')- ! + ') 1 !- ! ! + % 1 $ 1 ! ! 6 ) A )+ ) , 1 ) ! ! $ F 1 H!! I 1 )+- 17 + )+ $ 6 ! 1 +- + +
F $ I ) )+ 1 /
The petitioner Raghuveer Singh considering that aforesaid statement reported in "Lok Sammat" scandalized and lowered the authority of the Court and tended to scandalize the Court and tended to lower the authority of the Court by creating apprehension in the minds of people regarding integrity, ability and fairness of the Court in administering the laws and justice as well as affecting fair trial of a pending case in the courts below has resulted in criminal contempt of Court. He therefore, moved the learned Advocate General seeking his sanction for moving motion of contempt before this Court. The learned Advocate General of the State of Rajasthan vide his letter dtd.16.1.2002 considered the application and gave his consent in writing to file contempt petition against the non- applicants.
The non-applicant No.1 Shiv Kumar Swami is the editor of the newspaper "Lok Sammat", Sri
Ganganagar. Respondents no.2 to 6 are other persons who were reported to have made aforesaid statements while addressing gathering in front of the
Collectorate on 23.2.2001.
In pursuance of aforesaid sanction, this application was moved before this Court on 19.1.2002. On 30.1.2002, notices were issued to the respondents to show cause as to why this contempt petition be not admitted and allowed.
For the precise, allegation on which the contempt proceedings are founded and in respect of which the sanction was accorded by the learned
Advocate General reads as under:-
" ! $ % &, ' ) $ )+ !, - ! $ ) +! 1, ! + ! ) 6 ! ! ! + ') 1 17 + ) + $ 6 ! 1 + + F $ I ) )+ ! 1 ! ! % 1 $ 1,
In response to the show cause notices, firstly a joint reply was submitted by the non-petitioner No.2 to 6, namely, Het Ram Beniwal, Navrang Choudhary,
Advocate, Bhuramal Swami, Advocate, Hardeep
Singh, Sarpanch and Sheopat Singh. Apart from alleging oblique motive on the part of the petitioner to move the present application, the respondents
No.2 to 6 in their defence denied making of any such statement as referred in the application and as reported in "Lok Sammat" and took a stand that whatever stated in the news-item is false. However, the conduct of meeting at Collectorate, Sri
Ganganagar on 23.2.2001 was not denied.
In support of reply, separate affidavits were filed by Het Ram Beniwal, Navrang Choudhary,
Advocate, Bhuramal Swami, Advocate, Hardeep
Singh, Sarpanch and Sheopat Singh denying that they made the statement attributed to them in the newspaper by quoting the statement attributed to them.
After reply was submitted by the respondents
No.2 to 6, an application was moved on 26.4.2002 on behalf of the respondent No.1- Editor of "Dainik
Bhasker" in D.B.Cr.Contempt Petition No.1/2002 which also arose out of the statements made by Shri
Sheopat Singh and Shri Bhuramal Swami in the same meeting held in front of Collectorate, Sriganganagar on 23/2/2001, and in respect of which another contempt petition No.1/2002 was preferred after obtaining permission of learned Advocate General by the same petitioner, and facts are integrally connected, asserting that the answering respondent has correctly reported the incident which took place as such and the answering respondent had no ill- motive or -intention to malign the judiciary.
He also sought a direction from the Court for producing the CID report dtd.9.2.2001 lying in the office of SP, CID, Sri Ganganagar in support of their contention that earlier also, they have made similar allegations in the public conference held at the residence of Sh.B.S. Rana, Dist. Secretary of the
Indian Trade Union Centre which was noted and reported by the CID Branch of Sri Ganganagar and report to this effect was still lying in the office of
S.P., CID, Sri Ganganagar. This prayer was granted by the Court on 5.5.2003. In CID report dated 9.2.2001 there were some disparaging remarks against judiciary but since that is not the subject of charge against respondents, we do not consider the same to be relevant for further consideration.
Thereafter, on 15.7.2003, a compact disc was produced on behalf of the respondent No.1 Sh.
Ashish Vyas, editor of Dainik Bhaskar, Sri
Ganganagar in D.B.Cr. Contempt Petition No.1/2002 stating it to be video recording of the press conference held on 15.5.2002 at Sri Ganganagar by the respondent Sheopat Singh and Bhura Mal
Swami. The said meeting was also telecast on E.TV
The compact disc of video recording was produced along with the affidavit for viewing by the
Court as a measure of assisting the veracity of affidavits filed by the respective parties. The Court noticed that while the respondents to whom the statements have been attributed, had denied to have made any such statement, the Editor and co- respondents have stood by the reporting made in their respective newspapers.
The Court further noticed that the fact of video recording of press conference is not denied by the respondents No.2 to 6 and there is no objection by them to the viewing of the compact disc produced by the respondent No.1, by the Court.
Thus, by consent of the parties, the said compact disc was viewed by the Court in the presence of parties and their respective learned counsel on 16.7.2003. The proceedings of the Court show that during the course of viewing, persons addressing the press conference were identified as
Sh. Sheopat Singh and Bhuramal Swami which fact was admitted by the said respondents also. The respondents Bhuramal Swami and Sheopat Singh were also present during the course of viewing of the compact disc, of video recording and their presence in the press conference and their addressing in the press conference was admitted by both the respondents No.2 to 6 in the Court. After viewing the compact disc, the Court directed that transcript of the press conference be prepared by the Court stenographer and its correctness be verified by the counsel for the respondents and be kept on record.
In pursuance of aforesaid directions, the transcript of the compact disc was prepared under the supervision of Dy. Registrar (Judicial) and copy of which was given to the learned counsel for the respondent No.1 as well as learned counsel for other respondents . Thus, transcript of video conferencing, correctness of which was duly verified by both the parties, was placed on record.
The respondent No.1 also submitted his reply to the contempt petition on 18/5/2002 stating that in fact respondents no.2 to 6 had made the statements against the judiciary and the statement made by these persons have only been correctly reported in the newspaper with a view to draw the attention of the judiciary as to how it is being looked at by these leaders. It was submitted that the respondent No.1 himself has not done anything which amounts to contempt of this Court. The respondent No.1 further said that he has only reported the event which had happened in fact as a journalist without any other intention in his mind and heart.
In support of this assertion that news reporting has been correctly made, the respondent No.1 placed on record copy of "Rajasthan Patrika" Sri
Ganganagar edition dtd.24.2.2001, Seema Sandesh and Sriganganagar Hanumangarh Bhasker of 24/2/2001 and also submitted affidavits of Ram
Prakash Meel, Ajay Khungar, Virendra Malhotra,
Sanjay Sethi, Vijay Sharma and Mohan Singh, who were the persons reported to be present in the meeting dtd.23.2.2001 in which aforesaid statements were allegedly made by respondents no.2 to 6, respectively.
A rejoinder was submitted by the respondents
No.2 to 6 stating that the affidavits submitted along with the reply of the respondent No.1 be not taken into consideration as the same have not been supported by any contemporaneous documents or other records on the basis of which news report was published.
With the aforesaid material on record, no further opportunity was asked by either of the parties to produce any evidence and the matter was heard in absence of other evidence and cross- examination of deponent of the affidavits submitted by either parties.
Three questions arise for decision in this case: i) Whether statement published in "Lok Sammat" dtd.24.2.2001 published from Sri Ganganagar amounts to criminal contempt? ii) Whether editor's liability for whatever is published in the newspaper is absolute or he is not liable for faithful reproduction of the statement made by somebody else in the news reporting?
Iii) Whether it is proved beyond reasonable doubt on the basis of material on record that respondents
No.2 to 6 did make the statements attributed to them respectively so as to hold them liable for contempt?
We shall first consider whether publication in question amounts to criminal contempt independent of the fact that no contention raised about the same by the parties.
The Criminal Contempt has been defined in
Section 2(c) of the Contempts of Court Act, 1971
(hereinafter referred to as the Act of 1971) to mean publication by words spoken or written or written or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise or any matter or any other act whatsoever which -
(i)(a) scandalize or tends to scandalize,
(b) or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any court; or
(ii) prejudices or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceedings; or
(iii) (a) interferes or tends to interfere with,
(b) or obstructs or tends to obstruct the administration of justice in any other manner.
It shall be apposite to remind ourselves that proceedings for punishing anyone for contempt of Court is not for the purpose of protecting either the Court as a whole or the individual judges of the
Court from a repetition of the attach, but of protecting the public who repose implicit trust in administration of justice by the Courts impartially and in fair manner. It is for maintenance and protecting their trust which is very fundamental for administration of justice in any society governed by the rule of law. Unless essential safeguard to the dignity of the Court and to protect it from any attack from anyone, which would undermine its dignity and lower the Court's prestige in the eyes of common- man is provided, it results directly in undermining and destroying the public trust in administration of justice.
Scandalizing the Court in the context of criminal Contempt has been referred to in Halsbury's
Laws of England, fourth edition, volume 9. Any action done or writing publishing which is calculated to bring a court or a judge into contempt or to lower his authority or to interfere with the due course of justice or the lawful process of the Court, is a contempt of Court. Thus, scurrilous attack on a judge or a Court or attacks on the personal character of a judge are punishable contempts. The punishment is inflicted not for the purpose of protecting either the court as a whole or the individual judges of the Court from a repetition of the attack, but for protecting the public and especially those who either voluntarily or by compulsion are subject to the jurisdiction of the Court, from the mischief they will suffer if the authority of the tribunal is undermined or impaired.
In the case of Brahma Prakash Sharma V/s
State of Utter Pradesh (AIR 1954 SC 10) the
Supreme Court speaking through Hon'ble Mr. Justice
B.K. Mukherjee, as he then was stated object and purpose of exercise of contempt jurisdiction almost in similar way. He said:
"The summary jurisdiction exercised by superior Courts in punishing contempt of their authority exists for the purpose of preventing interference with the course of justice and for maintaining the authority of law as is administered in the courts. The object of contempt proceedings is not to afford protection to judges personally from imputation to which they may be exposed as individuals; it is intended to be a protection to the public whose interests would be very much affected if by the act or conduct of any party, the authority of the court is lowered and the sense of confidence which people have in the administration of justice by it is weakened."
While considering this aspect of the matter, the distinction must be drawn between the fair criticism of the judgment or conduct of the proceedings on the one hand, which may not amount to contempt or court though may give cause for prosecuting for defamation. However, on the other hand, where right of fair comment is transgressed and disparaging statement is calculated to interfere with the due course of justice or proper administration of law by such Court, it falls within the ambit of scandalizing the court amounting to criminal contempt. In Brahma Prakash Sharma's (supra) case the Hon'ble Supreme Court drew this distinction. The Court said that there are two primary considerations which should weigh with the court when it is called upon to exercise the summary powers in cases of contempt committed by scandalizing the court itself. In the first place, the reflection on the conduct or character of a judge in reference to the discharge of his judicial duties would not be contempt if such reflection is made in the exercise of the right of fair and reasonable criticism, which every citizen possesses in respect of public acts done in the seat. It is not by stifling criticism that confidence in courts can be created. In the second place, when attacks or comments are made on a Judge or Judges, disparaging in character and derogatory to their dignity, care should be taken to distinguish between what is a libel giving personal cause to the Judge and what amounts really the contempt of Court. The fact that a statement is defamatory so far as the Judge is concerned, does not necessarily make it a contempt. The Court further said that a defamatory attack on a Judge may be a libel so far as the Judge is concerned and it would be open to him to proceed against the libellor in a proper action if he so chooses. If however, the publication of the disparaging statement is calculated to interfere with the due course of justice or proper administration of law by such court, it can be punished summarily as contempt. One is a wrong done to the Judge personally while the other is a wrong done to the public. It will be an injury to the public if it tends to create an apprehension in the minds of the Judges or to deter actual and prospective litigants from placing complete reliance upon the Court's administration of justice or if it is likely to cause embarassment in the mind of the
Judge himself in the discharge of his judicial duties.
It is well established that it is not necessary to prove affirmatively that there has been an actual interference with the administration of justice by reason of such defamatory statement; it is enough if it is likely or tends in any way, to interfere with the proper administration of law.
These principles were reiterated by the Hon'ble
Supreme Court in the case of Perspective Application
(P.) Ltd. V/s The State of Maharashtra ( AIR 1971 SC 221). The court said that
".................... the test will be whether the wrong is done to the judge personally or it is done to the public. The publication of a disparaging statement will be an injury to the public if it tends to create an apprehension in the minds of the people regarding the integrity, ability or fairness of the judge or to deter actual and prospective litigants from placing complete reliance upon the Court's administration of justice, or if it is likely to cause embarassment in the mind of the Judge himself in the discharge of his judicial duties."
On similar lines is the decision of Hon'ble
Supreme Court in the case of C.K. Daphtary V/s Sh.
O.P. Gupta and ors. (AIR 1971 SC 1132).
These principles have been adhered to and reiterated in number of decisions coming later on, we need not multiply the precedents.
Therefore, while considering the first question whether any publication of new or article in the news-paper amounts to scandalizing the Court affecting administration of justice on aforesaid touch stone, one has to take into account whether the attack is directed against the individual or is directed against the system as a whole.
Catena of decision would show that allegation of partiality and lack of integrity to judge in all the circumstances has been held to be scurrilous, amounting to scandalizing the court and tending to create an apprehension in the minds of the people that the justice would not be administered on the even scale in the Court which results in lowering the authority of the Court. Whether it was an attack on judge only in his personal capacity or it tended to create an apprehension in the mind of public regarding the integrity, ability and fairness of judge and tends to sway the actual and prospective litigants away from placing complete reliance upon the Courts' administration of justice, has to be examined in each case on its own facts.
If we examine the present case on the aforesaid touch stone, undoubtedly, the publication of statements reportedly made by respondents no. 2 to 6 are clearly calculated to scandalise and lower down the authority of the Court and was an attack on the integrity, ability and fairness of the Court affecting the minds of the people that courts are not to be trusted with fair administration of laws and it also tends to interfere with pending trial of accused persons in Koda Murder case by levelling allegations of discrimination in administering justice in the court, alleging influence of money in grant of anticipatory bail. Disparaging remarks against Judges of the
Rajasthan High Court as well as wholly unfounded and unwarranted allegations imputing the whole process of administration of justice in the High Court was seriously calculated to disrupt the trust of present and future litigants to have faith in the
Courts. We have already referred to specific statements attributed to Shri H.R.Beniwal, Navrang
Choudhary, Advocate, Bhuramal Swami, Advocate,
Hardeep Singh, Sarpanch and Ex-M.P.Sheopat Singh, which clearly come within the ambit of contempt as transgressing and criticising the judgment of the
H.R. Beniwal alleged about partiality in administration of justice in the courts by alleging that there are two kinds of justice in Courts. On the one hand, a person accused of theft of Rs.100/- is not granted bail, and where a person is injured with `lathi' or 'gandasi', the Court calls for case diary and statement of witnesses, but on the other hand grants bail to Miglani and Gurdayal Singh without calling for the case diary.
Advocate Navrang Choudhary directly attacked on the Court by alleging that people have lost trust in law and justice.
Srapanch Hardeep Singh alleged that behind grant of anticipatory bail in the Koda case, money influence is there.
Former M.P. Sheopat Singh was reported to have said that after seeing the Judge of the High
Court, it is not the responsibility of the workers to maintain dignity of judiciary.
Advocate Bhuramal Swami directly attacked by naming the Judge of the High Court that all around money rules the roost, whether it is executive or judiciary. He went on to say that for taking anticipatory bail, the procedure was not adopted and a Judge was sent on leave for one week and second granted the anticipatory bail and after three days he was sent to Maharashtra. The Rajasthan High Court has created a history which has shocked all the intellectuals.
These allegations per se made by each of the respondents no. 2 to 6 fall within the ambit of scandalizing and lowering the authority of the court by impeaching the integrity, ability and fairness of a
Judge and the procedure adopted by the Court in grant of bail in Koda case. We are, therefore, of the opinion that publication of indicted statements of respondents no. 2 to 6 fall within the category of scandalizing the Court, calculated to undermine and lower the authority of the Court by creating an apprehension and doubt in the minds of the people about impartiality, integrity and fairness of the court in administering laws and delivering justice.
We are therefore, of the opinion that impugned publication of indicted statements falls within the category of publication of statements scandalizing the Court calculated to undermine and lower its authority by creating apprehension and doubt in the minds of the people about impartiality, integrity and fairness of the Court in administering laws and delivering justice. We, therefore, have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that impugned publication (Annex.C/1) amounts to attack on the integrity, ability and impartiality of the Court.
We may also notice here that though such statements published in print not only results in scandalizing the court and lowering the authority of the Court in the mind of the people, but also likely to affect the fair trial of the case in Darshan Koda's case which was still to commence and prior to that making of these sort of allegations was likely to affect the trial thereafter, thus tends to interfere with and deflects due course of justice.
Be that as it may, since that is not the charge on which the respondents were called upon to answer, we do not carry further this aspect, but this may also amounts to contempt as defined in Section 2(c) of the Act of 1972.
At the time of hearing, the fact that statement published in the newspaper "Lok Sammat"
Annex.C/1 were contemptuous and tended to scandalize the Court and lowering the prestige of the
Court was not contentious issue. The contention on the part of the respondent No.1 was that he has made faithful reporting of the event that has happened at the Collectorate of Sri Ganganagar on 23.2.2001 in the ordinary course of news reporting and therefore, by making correct and faithful reporting of the event, the editor is not liable for the contempt. However, the fact that nature of statement published in the news-paper was contemptuous was not the matter of argument.
Likewise on behalf of respondents No.2 to 6, it was not contended that the statement on the face value does not have the effect of scandalizing the
Court and lowering the authority of the Court, the defence was that the respondents No.2 to 6 did not make such statements at all and therefore, they are not liable for the statements which have not been made by them. In other words,, according to the respondents No.2 to 6, the news paper reporting does result in scandalizing and lowering the authority of Court and was contemptuous, but attributing of such statements to them was incorrect.
The second question which we propose to consider is about liability of the editor.
Apparently from the reply, the editor's defence has only been that he has faithfully reported the statements made by two other co-respondents at the public meeting as news report in ordinary course of its business and such faithful and correct reporting of the events does not amount to contempt of the
The learned Additional Advocate General assisting the Court has referred to a number of decisions of Hon'ble Supreme Court and the High
Court pointing out that wherever anything published in the news-paper is calculated to scandalizes the
Court resulting into criminal contempt, the editor has been invariably held liable.
We may clarify that position of owner of publishing house may be slightly different from the editor's responsibility. Liability of editor who is responsible for everything that is published in a newspaper edited by him is governed by strict liability. Miller in his Contempt of Court (Second edition) has succinctly stated as to what should be the liability of the editor in relation to anything published in the newspaper. He said that liability of editor does not depend on the principle of vicarious liability or on the liability of reporting agent. The liability is principal liability. It is founded on that ground that as long as editor is available for consultation, he should be held responsible for anything that appears in the newspaper he edits.
This principle has been stated by Charles Wintour in his book "Pressure on the Press".
Obviously, if that were not so, in no case of publication, editor shall be responsible in as much as in most of the cases it is the publication of articles written by someone else or news reported by someone else. Freedom of expression like any other freedom is subject to reasonable restriction and does not extend beyond such legitimate limit.
The Supreme Court in Haji C.H. Mohammad
Koya vs. T.K.S.M.A. Muthukoya reported in AIR 1979
SC. 154 while considering the provisions of Section 7 of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 vis- a-vis the liability of an editor in respect of anything published in the publication under his editorial supervision had expressed somewhat similar view.
The Court had opined that where a person's name appeared as an editor in a paper,provisions of
Section 7 of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 shall automatically apply and he being a person who controls the selection of the matter that is published in a newspaper is responsible and liable for all acts which originate from such publication. In such an eventuality, Section 7 of the
Act raises a rebuttable presumption,which the editor can always rebut by showing that he had nothing to do with the publication of the editorial or the news report and that actually editing and publication was done under the supervision of somebody else.
In coming to this Conclusion, the Court relied on its earlier decision in case of State of
Maharashtra Vs. Dr. R.B. Chowdhary reported in AIR 1968 SC. 110.
A Division Bench of Patna High Court in the State of Bihar Vs. Shri Anant Prasad and Anr. ILR
(1973) 52 Patna 358 the Court on finding that article published in newspaper "Bhrashtachar Nirodh" was such a disparaging that very heading of the news item will have the effect to undermine the respect of the public for the law courts and jeopardise the preservation of law and order and it has tended to create an apprehension in the minds of the people regarding integrity, ability and fairness of the Court, rejected in unequivocal terms the plea of editor disclaiming any responsibility in respect of an article authored by some one else and faithfully reported by him.
The Court said:-
"Editor Shri Kamaldeo Sharma is responsible for getting this article published in this magazine although he may not be its author. As an editor of a magazine, he has the responsibility to see that the articles which are published in the magazine do not contain disparaging remarks against the Court which have the effect of lowering the prestige of the
Court and causing aspersion about its honesty and its integrity. In publishing this news item in the magazine Shri Kamaldeo Sharma has scandalised the Magistrate. In my opinion, therefore, Shri Kamaldeo Shrama has committed contempt of Court within the meaning of Section 2 (c) of the Contempt of
Courts Act, 1971."
The Karnataka High Court in High Court of
Karnataka vs. Chinnen Das and others reported in
ILR 1997 Kar 418 has expressed the view that editor's responsibility in respect of anything published over which his name appeared as editor can be undone only if it can be demonstrated that such editor had virtually nothing to do with regard to the choice of material that comes to be printed and which is the function of somebody else.
It is also well settled that in the matter of liability arising from any publication so far as editor is concerned, the intention of the editor is irrelevant.
In Sukhraj vs. Hemraj and others reported in
AIR 1967 Raj. 203, this Court said that mere disclaimer on the part of the publisher or author that he had no intention to show disrespect to the court would not be sufficient defence when the purpose and meaning of the writing is obviously of a contrary import and is contemptuous. ........ If 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 of motive of the contemnor is immaterial if the publication is calculated to impede the fair trial of a case or bring the administration of justice into contempt.
Similar view was expressed by Calcutta High
Court in the case of Tarit Kanti [AIR 1918 Cal.988
(SB)] and by Orissa High Court in the case of State vs. Radhagobinda [ AIR 1954 Orrisa 1 ].
The Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of
Harijai Singh and another V/s Vijay Kumar (1996)(6)
SCC 466 while emphasizing that a free and healthy press is indispensable to the functioning of a true democracy reiterated the view taken by the Court in its earlier decision in the case of Indian Express
Newspaper V/s Union of India (1985) 1 SCC 641.
The court observed as under:
"However, freedom of press is not absolute, unlimited and unfettered at all times and in all circumstances as giving an unrestricted freedom of speech and expression would amount to an uncontrolled licence. If it were wholly free even from reasonable restraints, it would lead to disorder and anarchy. The freedom is not to be misunderstood as to be a press free to disregard its duty to be responsible. In fact, the element of responsibility must be present in the conscience of the journalists. In an organised society the rights of the press have to be recognised with its duties and responsibilities towards the society. Public order, decency, morality and such other things must be safeguarded. The protective cover of press freedom must not be thrown open for wrong doings. If a newspaper publishes what is improper, mischievously false or illegal and abuses its liberty, it must be punished by court of law. The editor of a newspaper or a journal has a greater responsibility to guard against untruthful news and publications for the simple reason that his utterances have afar greater circulation and impact than the utterances of an individual and by reason of their appearing in print they are likely to be believed by the ignorant. That being so, certain restrictions are essential even for preservation of the freedom of the press itself. ...."
Thus, in our opinion, the editor's liability as a responsible media person is to see that any article or statement of others which results in scandalizing the court and lowering the authority or tends to scandalize the Court or lowering the authority of the court or interfere with or deflects the course of justice is not published and if it fails to discharge such responsibility and any statement or article is published in the newspaper which amounts to criminal contempt, the editor is the person who falls within the ambit of liability for criminal contempt. The editor is independently liable for such publication of statement scandalizing the Court or lowering the authority of the Court as much as maker of such statement. The Rule of strict liability applies in such a case.
Undoubtedly at the initial stage, the respondent
No.1 did offered defence in response to the show cause notice that he made truthful reporting of the event where such statements were made by the persons for whom they have been attributed and that he is not author of such statement.
When faced with this dilemma that if the statements published in the newspaper falls within the ambit of criminal contempt, liability is strict, the respondent No.1 realizing its fault and misconceived defence taken by him without carrying this argument any further tendered unconditional apology.
Simultaneously such apology was also published in the newspaper and an undertaking was given by the respondent No.1 that in future he will act with due care and caution that such statement are not published through newspaper edited by him.
In the facts and circumstances particularly looking to the conduct that while question was discussed by the learned Additional Advocate
General, the respondent No.1 conceding ground that editor's liability is absolute, has promptly come out with unconditional apology, apology was also published in the news paper, copy of which has been placed on record and also furnished an undertaking to desist from such publication in future, we are satisfied about the genuine sense of remorse and repentance of the respondent No.1 and accept the apology tendered by the respondent No.1 and leave the matter at that.
Notices against the respondent No.1 are discharged.
Now we examine the matter whether it is proved beyond reasonable doubt that respondents no.2 to 6 have made the incriminating statements which have been attributed to them in the newspaper
We have referred to above the exact statement attributed to the respective respondents in the newspaper. The defence of respondents no.2 to 6 is of simple denial that they did not made any suggested statement and that publication is false. In this case, respondents no.2 to 6 in their joint reply have stated that respondentsno.2 to 6 have not made any statement as alleged by the petitioner in his contempt petition. So far as correctness of the allegations of having made such statements by respondents no.2 to 6 are concerned, the only joint reply submitted by respondents in para 10 is:-
"That respondents no.2 to 6 have not made any statement as alleged by the petitioner in para 2 of the contempt petition. It is stated that the petitioner, without verifying the correctness of the averments contained in the news item Annx.C/1 directly reached at the conclusion that the answering respondents have deliberately made defamatory statements against the lawyers,Judges and complete
Judiciary. It is reiterated that whatever stated in the news-item Annx.C/1 is false. The respondents no.2 to 6 never said anything against this Hon'ble Court, lawyers and Hon'ble Judges of this Hon'ble Court. It is correct that meeting was conducted on 23.2.2001 which was followed by submission of representation to the Collector, Sri Ganganagar for the change of
Asstt. Public Prosecutor. Certain other demands with regard to Payment of Minimum Wages etc. were also part of the aforesaid representation."
They further stated that:
"The answering-respondents have not made any attempt to malign the judiciary and judicial system of the country."
The reply reveals that the respondents irrate sentiments and the affiliation of ruling party perceived with the persons involved in killing of late
Sh. Darshan Koda, which is reflected from para 5 of the reply filed on behalf of respondents No.2 to 6, wherein these respondents have stated that Sh.
Darshan Koda, a prominent Trade Union Activist of
Sri Ganganagar district, was brutally killed by certain miscreants in the year 2000. It was common belief that most of the persons involved in brutal killing of late Sh. Darshan Koda are affiliated with the ruling party in the State. The people at large as well as the answering respondents submitted a representation to the Collector, Sri Ganganagar to appoint some other public prosecutor in place of Sh. Rajendra Batra,
Assistant Public Prosecutor as he was also close to the persons belonging to the ruling party in the
State. It was also stated that the State Government appointed Sh. Ishwar Singh as Special Public
Prosecutor. The respondents also alleged that the present contempt petition is fall out of controversy about appointment of public prosecutor for conducting trial in the case of Darshan Singh Koda.
This was stated to be motive of petitioner to file this application.
However, publication of contemptuos statement in the news paper is reality and such contemptuous statements were allegedly made by respondent No.2 to 6 is also a fact. Hence, controversy about appointment of public prosecutor has hardly any bearing in these proceedings so also no involvement of editor or publisher of news paper is suggested to impute ill motive and deliberately making a false reporting of the event.
Be that as it may, since the contempt proceedings arise out of publication of news item of the statements allegedly made by respondents No.2 to 6 and proceedings of contempt have been initiated in accordance with sanction for such prosecution granted by the learned Advocate General and we have already noticed above that publication of such statements amounts to scandalizing the court and lowering the authority of the court in the minds of people creating an apprehension that even justice is not available in the High Court. On levelling groundless allegations, the contempt proceedings were initiated and the motive of the complainant becomes irrelevant in finding as to whether the respondents No.2 to 6 made or did not make statements attributed to them.
The real issue for the present purpose is only to consider from the material on record whether it can be said beyond reasonable doubt that alleged statements were made by respondents No.2 to 6 respectively and were correctly reported in Ex.C/1
Apart from denial of having made such statements, no other defence is taken by the respondents in their reply or in the arguments.
Learned Additional Advocate General assisting the Court in this regard has drawn our attention to the affidavits submitted along with the reply of the respondent no.1 which consists of six persons.
First affidavit Annex.R-1/4 is of Ram Prakash
Meel, who is Sub-Editor of "Lok Sammat" published from Sriganganagar i.e. the newspaper in question in which the incriminating statements were published.
He has clearly stated in his affidavit that on 23/2/2001 a public meeting was held at
Sriganganagar before the Collectorate, which was addressed by the non-petitionerno.2 to 6 that on that day he reported the speech delivered by Shri
Sheopat Singh, Hetram Beniwal and other respondents no.3, 4 and 5 of the contempt petition.
He further stated that news published on 24/2/2001 has been published on his reporting and that it was true and correct and has been published as it was as they were delivered by the respondents no. 2 to 6 in a public meeting and that the version printed in the newspaper is the correct version of the public speeches made in front of the Collectorate,
The only objection to the reliability of the statement of deponent Ram Prakash Meel raised by respondents no.2 to 6 is that the deponent has not produced any particular words or notes of reporting.
Suffice it to say that his credibility as Sub-Editor of
"Lok Sammat" is not denied and that he was present and eye witness of the proceedings of the meeting is not the question in issue. The person who himself has reported has deposed that the publication was in accordance with the reporting made by him, which was correctly reported by him. Non-production of notes after almost 1 ½ years of the happening does not dilute the credibility and the correctness of the deposition. His statement fully supports and corroborates the truthful and correct reporting of statements made by the respective respondents no.2 to 6 in "Lok Sammat" dated 24/2/2001.
Second affidavit Annex.R-1/5 is of Ajay
Khungar, who is a journalist of Punjab Kesri,
Jalandhar. He has deposed that he had attended the meeting on 23/2/2001 held at Collectorate,
Sriganganagar, which was addressed by respondents no. 2 to 6. He further deposed that news published in
"Lok Sammat" is correct and true and it has published the speeches of respondents No.2 to 6 as it were delivered by them and that version printed in the newspaper is the correct version of the public speeches made by the respondents No.2 to 6 in front of Collectorate, Sriganganagar.
To the similar effect is the deposition of Shri
Virendra Malhotra (Annex.R-1/6), who is a journalist of U.N.I. and is residing at Sriganganagar. He has deposed that on 23/2/2001 he attended the meeting held at Collectorate, Sriganganagar, which was addressed by respondents no.2 to 6 and the news published in "Lok Sammat" dated 24/2/2001 is correct and true and it has been published as it was delivered by respondents no.2 to 6.
To the same effect is the deposition of Shri
Sanjay Sethi, who is a journalist of Daily Tribune
(Annex.R-1/7) and Shri Vijay Sharma (Annex.R-1/8), who have attended the meeting dated 23/2/2001 and have stated on oath that news published in "Lok
Sammat" on 24/2/2001 was true and correct and it has published the speeches of respondents no.2 to 6 as were delivered by them.
The common objection about depositions of
Ajay Khungar, Virendra Malhotra, and Sanjay Sethi is that they are correspondents of different newspapers but none of their newspaper is produced before the Court nor it is stated that they had reported or published the alleged speeches in their newspapers, on the contrary they rely on the article published in "Lok Sammat" to which they have got no concern of any nature and they have not stated that what exactly has been said by which speaker.
We are unable to sustain the kind of objection raised by respondents no.2 to 6. In this regard, the credibility of deponents of R-1/4 to R-1/8, who are correspondents of different newspapers, is not in doubt. The fact that all the newspapers have not published the contemptuous speeches delivered by respondents no.2 to 6 ad verbatim does not, in any way, dilute the correctness of statements published in "Lok Sammat" inasmuch as we have noticed that whatever is published in any newspaper by way of article or a news item, it is the responsibility of the editor under whose supervision editorial publication takes effect. Therefore, if the editors of other established newspapers had shown more maturity and discretion in not publishing the incriminating, contemptuous part of the speeches delivered by respondents no.2 to 6, it does not militate against the correctness of the statements published in other newspapers, whose editors may not be that experienced or astute in pruning the incriminating or contemptuous part of the statements from going into print. The fact that the depositions were made about an incident which took place almost 14 months before the deposition and they are not supposed to state ad verbatim speech delivered by respondents no. 2 to 6 and certainly depositions were made on the basis of memory of that incident and that the same was correct, newsprint was referred only as refreshing memory by reference.
We are, therefore, unable to sustain the objection to the credibility of the testimony of deponents Ajay Khungar from Punjab
Kesri,Jalandhar, Virendra Malhotra from U.N.I.,
Sanjay Sethi from Daily Tribune and a teacher, who attended the meeting on 23/2/2001.
The last affidavit is of Mohan Sharma, who is a registered deed writer and is regularly sitting in the Collectorate, Sriganganagar.
He has deposed that on 23/2/2001 Comrade leaders came in the form of procession in front of
Collectorate, Sri Ganganagar and in front of the
Collectorate they addressed the people. He further deposed that in the said meeting held on 23/2/2001,
Shri Bhuramal Swami and Shri Sheopat Singh openly made serious allegations against judiciary with regard to murder case of Darshan Koda. The said meeting was also addressed by Hetram Beniwal and
Navrang Choudhary and that he was very much present in the said meeting and have heard all the speeches rendered by the speakers. He further deposed that version printed in the newspaper is the correct version of these persons who made the public speeches in front of Collectorate, Sriganganagar.
There is no criticism of the deposition by the respondents no.2 to 6 except that all the affidavits have been typed on same computer and with same fonts and notarised on 5/5/2002 by the same notary.
This criticism of depositions is without any substance.
Obviously, when the respondent has to file reply in corroboration of his statement, he has chosen to place on record some representative statement. The respondent no.1 himself is an editor of newspaper and his obvious choice would be the correspondents and journalists attached with other newspapers who have no particular interest in the news item in which the statements were published and who are independent persons. They have come forward to depose that such statements were made and reported in "Lok Sammat". The necessity of filing affidavits arose because contempt proceedings were initiated on the aforesaid version and when reply to show cause notice was to be submitted, the necessity of submitting corroborative evidence in support of version of respondent no.1 arose. There is nothing wrong if the respondent no.1 has called upon the journalists reporting to different newspapers and submitted their affidavits in support of truthfulness of the reporting made in the newspaper "Lok Sammat"
As a matter of fact, the depositions by journalists of different newspapers, who had attended the meeting on 23/2/2001 lends strength to the stand taken by the respondent no.1 that whatever has been published in "Lok Sammat" on 24/2/2001 about the speeches delivered by respondents no.2 to 6 was correct and true reporting of such statements. These are not the persons, who are unconnected with and could not have been attended the meeting.
Apart from the affidavits of the aforesaid deponents, the respondent no.1 has also placed on record news item published in "Rajasthan Patrika",
"Seema Sandesh" and Bikaner Sriganganagar
Bhaskar" on 24/2/2001 on which respondent no.1 has relied on in support of correctness of the reporting made by him.
We may notice that reporting made in
"Dainik Bhasker" is subject matter of
D.B.Cr.Contempt Petition No.1/2002 against editor of
"Dainik Bhasker", Sheopat Singh and Bhuramal
Swami, whose statements were also found to be incriminating. We in a separate judgment rendered in
D.B.Cr.Contempt Petition No.1/2002 have found the reporting in "Dainik Bhasker" to be criminal contempt and held its editor and Shri Sheopat Singh and
Bhuramal Swami liable for committing criminal contempt. The fact that exact statements reported in
"Dainik Bhasker" and "Lok Sammat" had some variance, does not militate against two statements. It is nobody's case that either of the news item in any newspaper has reported full text of the speeches delivered by speakers in the meeting. It is what the reporting journalists, or editor considers the punchline which conveys the significant face of the news, who have considered the significant importance of the speeches and reported that part of the speeches. It is not the case of the respondents either that one of the two speeches reported is correct . On the other hand, they had denied giving any of the speeches. The Advocate General has sanctioned for initiating criminal contempt for both the statements published in both the newspapers, as noticed by us above. Therefore, speeches reported in
"Dainik Bhasker" and "Lok Sammat" are compatible with each other and not in derogation of each other, therefore, does not militate against the fact that speeches delivered by the respondents were contemptuous and were calculated to scandalise the
Court and lower its authority by creating an impression in the minds of people that courts are incapable of administering law and also imputed doubt about integrity and impartiality of Judges.
So far as the news item published in
"Rajasthan Patrika", as noticed by us in
D.B.Cr.Contempt Petition No.1/2002, do support at least to the extent that in the meeting dated 23/2/2001 in front of Collectorate, Sriganganagar, the respondents no.2 to 6 did made certain disparaging remarks against judiciary and to that extent stand of respondents no.2 to 6 that they did not make any disparaging comments has been belied and defence stands falsified.
So far as "Seema Sandesh" is concerned, it has not reported anything about the statements made in regard to judiciary, which also does not render the statements reported in other newspapers as false or wrong, nor does it prove that no such statements were made.
The respondents No.2 to 6 also relied on the same for the purpose of contending that
"Patrika" has not reported any such statement as has been attributed to them and no such reporting has been made in other news-papers, namely, Dainik
Seema Kiran dtd.25.2.2001, or Seema Sandesh.
In this connection reliance was placed on the case of Biman Bose V/s State of W.B. ((2006) 1 SCC
(Cr.) 291) for stating that when two versions of speech delivered by contemner published in two different newspapers, and maker of the statement denied having made the contumacious statement attributed to him in the newspaper, in absence of any other material finding that the contemner made such statement and thus committed contempt of court, charge cannot be sustained.
Before considering the precedent, we deem it appropriate to consider the facts about publication in this case as no precedent can be understood properly without coming to know of factual context of the case and the ratio emerging from the precedent. About statement published in Bhaskar subject matter of
D.B.Cr. Contempt Petition No.1/2002, we have discussed separately in the judgment rendered in that case. Other newspapers referred to by counsel for the respondents are Rajasthan Patrika and Seema
Sandesh. In Rajasthan Patrika, Sri Ganganagar
Edition dtd.24.2.2001 does refer that speeches were made by former M.P. Sheopat Singh, Hetram
Beniwal, Navrang Chaudhary, Bhuramal Swami,
Hardeep Singh, Sohan Singh and Mahendra
Bhansali. Though it did not say who spoke what, reported as under:
" % + + %
Literally translating it says that speakers addressing the congregation criticised the judicial procedure adopted in the matter of Koda murder case and raised question mark on credibility of judicial proceedings. Though the Patrika refrained from giving exact version of speeches, perhaps as an editorial discretion but did convey the fact that disparaging statements raising question mark on credibility of judicial proceedings adopted in Koda
Murder's case was made by speakers.
In seema Kiran, a newspaper published from
Sri Ganganagar in its edition dtd.24.2.2001 reported the address of Sheopat Singh and Bhuramal Swami as under respectively:
" ! )+ $ & % ) $ )+ 1 +
Bhuramal Swami . !.. ! )
P $ Q ) 1 "
We have found while considering the very same statements in Seema Kiran that they also betray that the respondents did make statements creating apprehension in the mind of people about integrity, ability and fairness of court in administering laws and conveying in no mistakable terms distrust in administration of justice throughout and did gave a call to retaliate in vengeance because laws are flouted by those who have been entrusted to protect it.
These reportings have not been denied nor correctness of same have been doubted.
These reportings, if anything, support the allegations that the respondents did made disparaging speeches calculated to downgrade the dignity and integrity of court and also its ability to administer laws with fairness. The fact that editors of such newspaper have not reported the exact version, does not establish that reporting of statements in other newspapers were false or incorrect.
Other newspapers have not reported the statements made by speakers, but had only reported the fact of making speeches by speakers raising question mark on credibility of judicial proceedings.
Therefore, question of reporting of two different statements, one of which was denied to be correct reporting and accepting other to be correct and contextual reporting does not arise in this case.
The decision in Biman Bose's case is not parallel on facts nor does Biman Bose case lay down straight jacket formula that where different statements are published in two different news- paper, inference must of necessity be drawn that it is not possible to reach the conclusion with reasonable certainty as to what statement has been made by alleged contemner.
It was a case in which two versions of speech delivered by the appellant therein was published in two different news papers. Speech was made in a
Seminar. One version was published in Bengali News
Daily "Bartaman", English translation of which was reproduced in the judgment which was considered to be a statement which could not be ignored and action deserved to be taken, therefore, suo moto action was initiated.
In response, the editor and publisher had tendered unconditional apology which was accepted by the High Court. Before the Hon'ble Supreme Court the appellant has taken a stand that correct version of his speech was the one published in the news- paper "Statesman" and he had not said what had been impugned to him in "Daily Bartaman".
On the material before the Court, the Court found that there did not exist sufficient material to come to the conclusion that what appeared in the newspaper "Bartaman" represented the correct version of the speech of the appellant.
Therefore, on this principle alone, no advantage can be drawn by the respondents. In the present case, two of the newspapers viz. Bhaskar or Lok
Sammat had published speeches delivered by the respondents and the contempt proceedings have been initiated in respect of statements published in both the newspapers. The statements published in other news-paper Bhasker is also subject matter of contempt petition No.1/2002. Both the contempt proceedings have been initiated by the same applicant with the permission of the learned Advocate
General. Other newspapers have not reported the statements made by speakers, but had only reported the fact of making speeches. Therefore, question of reporting of two different statements, one of which was denied to be correct reporting while admitting the other to be correct does not arise in the present case.
The reporting in other newspaper as considered above do corroborate the fact that the respondents
No.2 to 6 in the meeting at Collectorate on 23.2.2001 had made certain disparaging comments against judiciary in connection with grant of anticipatory bail to accused of Darshan Koda murder case.
Therefore, from the material on record, on the basis of news items appearing in different news papers and reporting of the event with astute editorial discretion does not assist much the respondents but from the newspaper reportings in different newspaper, one can reach the conclusion that in the meeting held on 23.2.2001 in front of
Collectorate, the respondents did made the incriminating speeches which created certain impression in the minds of the people that such remarks are disparaging comments on judiciary regarding its integrity and credibility and to that extent the stand of the respondents No.2 to 6 that they did not make any disparaging comments against judiciary stands belied and defense stands falsified.
However, mere falsification of defence is not proof of correctness of statements. However, in case, there is some other evidence indicating correctness of statement attributed to person accused of committing contempt, the falsification of defence adds to the weight of such evidence.
Principle was well stated by Lord Denning in
Bramblevale Ltd., Re (1969) 3 All.E.R. 1062 and approved by Supreme Court in Rejendra Sail Vs. M.P.
High Court Bar Association (2005) 6 SCC 109 and in
Mrityunjay Das Vs. Sayeed Hasibur Rehman (2001) 3
SCC 739 as under:-
"A contempt of court is an offence of a criminal character. A man may be sent to prison for it. It must be satisfactorily proved.
To use the time-honoured phrase, it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. It is not proved by showing that, when the man was asked about it, he told lies. There must be some further evidence to incriminate him.
Once some evidence is given, then his lies can be thrown into the scale against him. But there must be some other evidence....."
The principle has also been restated and reiterated in line of other decisions; Reference may be made to Chhotu Ram Vs. Urvashi Gulati (2001) 7
SCC 530, Anil Ratan Sarkar Vs. Hirak Ghose (2002) 4
SCC 21, Radha Mohanlal Vs. Rajasthan High Court
(2003) 3 SCC 427 and Bijay Kumar Mohanti Vs. Jadu
(2003) 3 SCC 427.
This takes us to consider recording of press conference which was admittedly held on 15.5.2002 at the Circuit House, Sri Ganganagar which had been held in the wake of denial by the respondents accused of making contemptuous statement at public meeting in reply submitted by them before this Court in response to notice of contempt proceedings.
Viewing of said video recording goes to suggest that there was a serious discord between press and the respondents about denial of making such statement reported by the newspapers, by the said respondents in the contempt petition.
We have already noticed that holding of press conference on 15.5.2002 was admitted by the respondents No.2 to 6 while the same was produced and that conference was video recorded was also admitted before the Court when the video recording of that conference was sought to be placed before the Court for viewing and was taken on record. No objection was either raised for taking the said video recording on record. During viewing the video recording as noticed above, the presence of respondents No.2 and 3 in the video recording in the press conference was also admitted.
In these circumstances, the transcript which is on record, prepared under the supervision of
Dy. Registrar and verified by the learned counsel for the parties become a relevant record of finding about the correctness of the two opposite stands taken by the respondents No.1 on the one hand and by other respondents no. 2 to 6 on the other hand.
The learned counsel for the respondents did not raise any issue about its admissibility and consideration but raised doubt about its evidentiary value inter alia on the ground that since no questions raised by the questioning person has been clearly audible and in absence of questions raised the answer thereto cannot be taken into consideration as anything related to the controversy.
Having considered the objection and the script on record, we are unable to sustain the objection raised by the respondents.
At page 3 of the transcript after initial questions about other matters, the specific question which came to the forefront was about the disparaging statements made against the High Court and making allegations against sitting Judge Hon'ble
Mr. Justice Palshikar of this Court. The question that started the conversation about the denial of statements in question continued till end of the conversation at page 23. The whole of conversation reveals the discontent amongst media persons that has arisen amongst media because, the makers of statements had pointed blank denial having made any such statement at all in response to contempt notices.
The question in the context of which entire conversation followed is as under:-
" + % + R !+
F $ R !+ + FS T F$
F ! +! ....."
Thus, the context following utterances took place and have been transcribed, clearly make that the whole press conference was about denial of statements made by Sheopat Singh and Bhuramal
This dialogue has continued until last page 23.
At the initial stage, Sheopat Singh and Bhuramal parried the question and tried to appease the press which was agitated on account of outright denial by the said respondents of the statements made by them and published in the newspapers which had resulted in initiation of contempt proceedings and also tried albeit unsuccessfully to divert the attention by raising issue about conspiracy of enemies in making use of such statements.
We shall presently notice a few relevant answers which reflect on controversy with which we are concerned. In the first instance, when the question was raised, Sheopat Singh replied that
"Look, the case is going on in High Court. We shall suffer the the decision of the High Court. I shall not decide it." He said in no unmistakable terms:-
" , !..... ! .. $ % 1
- +- $ % 1...
These utterances of Sheopat Singh convey that whatever has been spoken has all come in all news papers and please do not get disturbed.
In other words, he admitted that what has been stated by him has all been repeated in newspapers.
These newspapers which have not published statements, cannot lead to inference that no statements were made. It further supports the view that whatever statements have been reported in newspaper were correctly reported.
The question answered was directly related to the denial in the Court of the statements attributed to the respondents No. 2 and 3 as published in newspaper-subject matter of contempt petition. The questions were asked that the speakers have betrayed the media. It was directly questioned:
" $ Q ) % % ..................................................................... , "
Literally translated question meant that
"you had abused the Judges in front of people and have later on denied in the Court of having made such statements" and that "we published what you said and say whether did we publish wrongly?" These questions and responses to the question start from page 7.
Sheopat Singh said at page 8 that:
" +- ) $ % ! 1 1 %"
At page 9 Sheopat Singh stated "I very much understand your condition but the reporting of your papers have placed before the High Court and if we have committed any wrong, we shall be punished.
We are ready to face......."
At page 11, Sheopat Singh states "I am telling that all your papers Rajasthan Patrika, Bhashkar and other papers are on record and all the statements which we have given are also on record".
After this question was asked whether they are correctly printed Sheopat Singh replied "No, I am not saying about incorrect printing and listen to me" then came the question why did you say which was replied to "& & & "
Sheopat Singh stated that my statements have come on record. He was specifically asked. 'You denied in the Court', and Sheopat Singh said 'no, no, no'. Look at me. Listen to me all the newspapers are on record. And then he says that 'case is going on in
Court and if we have spoken wrong in Court, we will be punished.' He reiterated 'we are ready to face'.
" +- Q % & % 1 (!-! % ! ! 1) 1 !"
Bhuramal reiterated at page 12 in response to question "did we not publish what you said? Did we publish your statement by twisting?"
( % ) - % )+ ? ? ?
Bhuramal replied "Right, we were very much perturbed. The way in which the accused of murder were given bail and we are today more perturbed and said because the manner in which the murder was committed. We had not expected that bail will be granted in the manner in which it had been granted.
" - + W ! P ! F ! F ! 1 $ A
F % ! I! )+ F! !"
The respondent Bhuramal then tried to state in answer to the question that what did you say that 'your and our fight was together and for that fight our enemies had made both of us tools and had filed a false case in the Court.'
" - % ) F
F! F + $ 1 + $ 1 "
At page 13, Bhuramal was clearly asked to respond to the question that 'if you say that the case has been lodged falsely then we are liar and pleas raised are also lies.
The question was:-
- 1 1 1 1
To this Sheopat Singh replied "No no, all newspapers are there" and further said that "all newspapers are there and what more I can say that if we have spoken untruth, we will be punished".
Bhuramal added 'neither you are liar nor we but the question is that the manner in which enemies have lodged the case that is wrong.'
" - &"
After trying to appease angry media on denial in the court of the statements published in the newspapers for various reasons ultimately admitted that 'if we have spoken truth, we would have been punished and we had the consideration before us that if we were to tell truth and suffer jail it would demoralise general public.'
It is apparent from the following statement at page 23:-
" - 1 % ) 1 + .... , $ 1 )+ 1 I )
W 1 + 1 ! ...take example ) 6-6 ) ! 1 ) 1 1 ) $ ) )+ F F + , $ )+ F
F! ! 1 , ) R 1 , ) ! F 1 1 1 ! % )+ 1 ? 50 % 1 F$ F % 1 ! F % 1 ! ) 1 & question
F F ( ) ! 1 % !
Reading of the entire conversation in totality leaves no room of doubt that the respondents No.2 and 3 had no courage to deny in the press conference that they did not make the statement published by some of the newspapers and attributed to them, of which Bhaskar was named specifically and were trying to avoid the issue by saying that some people inimical towards them have raised this issue as a conspiracy and had they spoken truth it would demoralise the people.
Both Sheopat Singh and Bhuramal were categorical about the fact that what has been printed in media was not incorrectly printed. In this case, respondents No. 2 to 6 have denied in court any such statement, or any disparaging statement against the judiciary at all. We have already noticed above while considering the affidavits submitted by other persons and the news published in other newspapers, whose editors have shown restraint in not publishing the contemptuous statements ad verbatim, but did give out that utterances were made by the speakers against judiciary by questioning the credibility of judicial process adopted by the court in granting bail to accuse of Koda murder case.
This goes to show that respondents No.2 to 6 did make certain disparaging remarks against the judiciary and about the credibility of the procedure adopted by the Court in granting bail to the accused of murder of Darshan Koda and from the utterance during press conference in response to the questions directly raised regarding the correctness of disparaging statement attributed to the speakers at the meeting held at Collectorate on 23rd Feb., 2001, with particular reference to one Hon'ble Judge of this
Court, there was a clear admission that publication of their statement in newspapers were not incorrect and that they had to take stand contrary to it for contesting the case so that the general public may be demoralised in waging war against the killers of
Thus, in the totality of the circumstances, it is clearly proved on record beyond reasonable doubt that the respondents No. 2 to 6 did make disparaging statements against the judiciary in the meeting held 23rd January, at Collectorate, Sriganganagar on 2001, and correctly reported in Dainik Bhaskar published from Sriganganagar dated 24.2.2001. The respondents did not come out with any other alternative statements made by them to test the veracity of statement on touchstone of different contents and context as was considered by the
Supreme Court in Biman Bose's case. On the basis of positive material placed on record which we have found credible, we have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that statements attributed to the respondent No.2 Sheopat Singh and respondent No.3
Bhuramal Swami were correctly reported in the newspaper Annex.C-1 and statements made by respondents No.2 and 3 were calculated to scandalise and lowering the authority of court by creating an apprehension in the minds of general public about the integrity and fairness of the administration of justice by the Court which clearly amounted to a criminal contempt.
We may also notice that Rajendra Sail's Case too had arisen in like circumstances as the present case. In a murder case, the accused has been acquitted by High Court by reversing the conviction made by the trial court. A news item was published in newspaper "Hindutva" under the caption "Sail terms High Court decision in Niyogi murder case as rubbish". That report was based on speech delivered by applicant in a rally organised to commemorate the death of Shankar Goha Niyogi and interview given by him soon after the speech.
Rajendra Sail had denied of giving any inteview or making such statement which was found to be false. However, on the other evidence, it was concluded by the Court that :-
"The news report was based on the speech delivered by Rajendra Sail and the subsequent interview given to the correspondent. The correspondent has asserted that the news report was based on the speech delivered by
Rajendra Sail and the subsequent interview.
Rajendra Sail has, however; denied having made the statement or having given interview to the correspondent. There are preponderant circumstances, which objectively compel us to conclude that the said statements were in fact made by Rajendra Sail and the news report has reported the same. Whether Rajendra Sail gave interview to the correspondent or not, the speech itself, seen in the light of the audio and video recording of the speech and the transcript of the speech, speaks for itself and has the effect of lowering the dignity and authority of the Court and is an affront to the majesty of justice."
Parallel can be drawn from the facts that news published in the Newspaper Annex.C/1 is based on speeches delivered by the respondents other than respondent No.1 in a rally organised to agitate against grant of anticipatory bail to accused person of Darshan Koda murder case by the High Court, when such bail has been declined by the Sessions
Court. The statements made by the respective speakers noted by us in earlier part of judgment were highly derogatory and disparaging to the dignity of the Court and amounted to scandilise and lower the Authority of Courts and create an apprehension in the minds of people about integrity, ability and fairness of Judge making the order.
The fact that statements appeared in two newspapers were not identical also does not militate against our aforesaid conclusion inasmuch as it is nobody's case that any of the newspapers reported the complete statements made by the respondents
NO.2 to 6. The fact that different reporters considered different part of the statement as punch line for reporting, does not show that statements published in Dainik Bhaskar or Lok Samwat were incorrect. We may notice that the statements reported in 'Lok Sammat', another newspaper published from Sriganganagar for which also separate contempt proceedings were initiated against such persons, whose statements were considered to be contemptuous and are subject matter of D.B. Cr.
Contempt Petition No. 01/2002, which we shall be considering separately and independently. If statements reported in both the newspapers amount to criminal contempt on their own standing, it does not give any benefit to the respondents, maker of such statements.
We have, therefore, no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the respondents No.2 to 6 are guilty of committing criminal contempt of Court by making statements attributed to them in Annex.C/1 in public.
At no stage of proceedings, the respondents
No.2 to 6 had shown any repentance or remorse about statements made by them. Having taken a stand of total denial of having made the disparaging statements against the judiciary, which was found to be false and after considering the statements of deponents and statements coming to light from video recording of the press conference dated 15th
May, 2002, which was primarily directed against the situation arising from denial made by the respondents No. 2 to 6 of the statements published in the newspapers and statements were directly reported in two newspapers viz. 'Dainik Bhaskar' and 'Lok Sammat', each of which had become subject matter of contempt proceedings, it clearly goes to suggest that incorrect stand was taken in the Court by respondents No. 2 to 6 out of fear of punishment but the reporting made in the newspapers were admitted to be correct.
Thus, the respondents No. 2 to 6 are guilty of committing criminal contempt by making such disparaging statements which were calculated to scandalise and lower the authority of the Court and attack was on integrity, ability and fairness of the
Court in administering the laws impartially and fairly. No mitigating and extenuating has been made out. It rather unfolds dangerous tendency of disgruntled party leaders to make a public issue of any order of Court, which is not of their liking and fan the doubts regarding integrity, ability and fairness of
Court to administer laws evenhandedly by impeaching impartiality, integrity and ability of judges. Moreso public man takes it a stance of sensationalisation to remain in news as their own marketing strategy. This tendency needs to be severely deprecated and discouraged.
In the circumstances, each of the respondents No.2 to 6 namely Het Ram Beniwal,
Navrang Choudhary, Bhuramal Swami, Advocate,
Hardeep Singh and Sheopat Singh are punished for committing criminal contempt with simple imprisonment of two months and a fine of Rs.2,000/- each. On failure to pay the fine, the defaulter shall further undergo simple imprisonment of seven days.
As discussed above, respondent No.1, Shiv
Kumar Swami, Editor of Lok Sammat is also held guilty of criminal contempt for publishing the incriminating statements made by respondents No.2 to 6, which were calculated to scandalise and lower the authority of the
Court by creating apprehension in the minds of people about integrity, ability and fairness of the Court in administering the laws and delivering justice. However, we accept his unconditional apology in the circumstances discussed above and discharge notices against him. [ R.P. VYAS ], J. [ RAJESH BALIA ], J. babulal/
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