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Suo Motu vs Sri.M.S.Ravi on 25 March, 2009

Kerala High Court
Suo Motu vs Sri.M.S.Ravi on 25 March, 2009
       

  

  

 
 
  IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM

Cont.Cas.(Crl.).No. 2 of 2009(S)


1. SUO MOTU
                      ...  Petitioner

                        Vs



1. SRI.M.S.RAVI, THE PRINTER AND PUBLISHER
                       ...       Respondent

2. SRI.M.S.MANI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF,

3. SRI.DEEPU RAVI, MANAGING EDITOR,

4. SRI.M.S.MADHUSOODANAN,

                For Petitioner  :SUO MOTU

                For Respondent  :SRI.P.A.AHAMMED

The Hon'ble MR. Justice K.BALAKRISHNAN NAIR
The Hon'ble MR. Justice M.L.JOSEPH FRANCIS

 Dated :25/03/2009

 O R D E R
                       K.BALAKRISHNAN NAIR &

                       M.L.JOSEPH FRANCIS, JJ.

                    -----------------------------------------

                  CONTEMPT CASE (CRL) NO.2/2009

                    -----------------------------------------

                       Dated      25th March, 2009.

                                JUDGMENT

Balakrishnan Nair, J.

This contempt case is initiated suo motu by the High Court of Kerala,

pursuant to the decision by the Full Court on the administrative side.

Whether the decision of the Chief Justice alone is sufficient or that of the

Full Court is necessary, is a debatable point, as there are conflicting

decisions on this aspect. But, the decision of the Full Court lends

legitimacy to the proceedings and the same cannot be now described as the

brainchild of the master of the roster or the Judge designated by him.

2. The brief facts of the case are the following: Kerala Kaumudi is

one of the leading dailies in Malayalam. It published an editorial on

18.12.2008 under the caption “Comfort of the blindfolded eyes of the

Goddess of Justice”. The said editorial was one dealing with the

proceedings pending before this Court in the form of Bail Application

Nos.7311, 7508 and 7551 of 2008 in Crime No.R.C. 8(S)/93/SPE/KER/CBI,

COCR 2/2009 2

popularly referred as “Abhaya Case”. It was a case of unnatural death of a

nun, who was an inmate of Saint Pius Xth Convent, Kottayam. Her dead

body was found in the well of the said Convent on 27.3.1992. Initially, the

investigating agencies of the State thought that it was a case of suicide. On

the basis of the motion made by late Abhaya’s father, the case was

transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI also,

initially, was of the view that it may be a case of suicide. Finally, the

suspects were subjected to Narco Analysis and apparently, based on the

informations so extracted, two priests and a nun were arrested as the

accused in the case. Naturally, the case roused great public interest because

of the involvement of the priests and the nun. A section of the people was

applauding and encouraging the CBI for having performed a heroic act of

arresting the culprits finally. Another section of the public felt that it was a

false case foisted upon the priests and the nun and there was not sufficient

material to implicate them. Some of their leaders even went up to the extent

of beatifying the accused by comparing the difficulties faced by them to the

travails of Jesus Christ on his way to Calvary Mount for crucifixion. The

newspapers also published both the views. Majority of the Press was

highlighting the former view and a small section of the Press was giving

prominence to the latter view. While so, Bail Applications were moved by

COCR 2/2009 3

the three accused and they were being heard by a learned Judge of this

Court. Print and electronic media were publishing everything that was said

or omitted to be said in the Court Hall. It appears, during the hearing, the

learned Judge made certain observations regarding the merits of the

prosecution case. The CBI, apprehending bias, filed a petition on the

administrative side before the Hon’ble the Chief Justice, praying to transfer

the case from the Bench of the said learned Judge. The media was giving

wide coverage to these developments. While so, an interview given by a

former Judge of the Supreme Court was published by the Deepika daily, in

which he made certain comments on the trial of the accused by media and

the unreliability of Narco Analysis. The said daily is controlled by the

Church, to which the accused belonged. Kerala Kaumudi was a newspaper

generally supportive of the efforts made by the CBI to bring the culprits

before law. It felt that the timing of the publication of the interview by the

Deepika daily was chosen deliberately to influence the pending proceedings

before this Court for bail filed by the accused. While so, the motion made

by the CBI for transfer of the Bail Applications to another Bench was

dismissed by the Hon’ble the Acting Chief Justice. In the above

background, the aforementioned editorial was published.

3. This Court, prima facie, was of the view that the publication of the

COCR 2/2009 4

article was an interference with the due course of justice and decided on the

administrative side, to initiate contempt proceedings. The main offending

portions of the editorial are quoted below for convenient reference.

“Just a perusal is enough to understand that the plea
submitted by the CBI demanding transfer of bail application
from the Bench of Justice Hema, who is considering the
application involves serious legal questions. The CBI alleges
that many observations which would adversely affect the
progress of the case are being made, and decisions that favour
the accused are being evolved in the open court. Now it is
convinced that there is nothing surprising in the rejection of
the plea to change the Bench submitted by the CBI.”

It is further stated in the editorial as follows:

“When a venerable person, who retired from the Supreme
court and who is considered as the pillar of Christianity, wrote,
in the daily of Christians, under his name criticizing
interventions of the CBI in this case as cheap tactics, and this
case came before the bench of the noble lady who was the
junior of that person while he was practicing as an advocate,
and now a High Court Judge, can the public be blamed if they
suspect that the allegation made by the CBI may be true?
Especially, when the venerable person, holding the office of
The Chief Justice at the time the CBI filed the petition, left that
office and another venerable person came as Acting Chief
Justice, who fortunately or unfortunately, happened to be a
Christian has only helped to magnify the suspicion of the
people ….. .”

This Court felt that by publishing the above editorial, the publishers/editors

of the Kerala Kaumudi daily have committed criminal contempt as defined

under Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred

COCR 2/2009 5

to as “the Act”). Therefore, it was felt that action should be initiated

against them, as provided under Section 15 of the Act. The matter was

placed before the Bench on the judicial side for preliminary hearing under

Rule 9 of the Contempt of Courts (High Court of Kerala) Rules, 1988

(hereinafter referred to as “the Rules”). After hearing the learned Advocate

General, it was felt that a prima facie case has been made out against the

respondents. So, notice was ordered to be served on them. But, their

personal appearance was dispensed with.

4. The 1st respondent is the Printer and Publisher, the 2nd respondent

is the Editor-in-Chief, the 3rd respondent is the Managing Editor and the 4th

respondent is the Editor of Kerala Kaumudi. The respondents 1 to 3

appeared through learned counsel Mr.P.A.Ahamed and filed separate replies

in the form of affidavits, as contemplated under Rule 13 of the Rules. The

4th respondent appeared through M/s.Menon & Pai, advocates and filed a

reply in the form of an affidavit. Mr.T.Krishnanunni, senior advocate was

appointed as amicus curiae, to assist the Court.

5. The 1st respondent in the opening portion of his affidavit has

submitted as follows:

“2. At the outset the respondents respectfully submit
that they have the highest respect for the judiciary and further
have utmost confidence and faith in the integrity, fairness and

COCR 2/2009 6

impartiality of the Judiciary especially the Honourable High
Court of Kerala. It is respectfully submitted that the
respondents herein have never attempted to sully the image and
fair name of the Honourable High Court of Kerala. The
respondents herein respectfully submit that if this Honourable
Court is of the view that the editorial captioned ‘Comfort of the
blindfolded eyes of the Goddess of Justice’ is contumacious or
derogatory, they tender an unconditional apology and state that
it was neither wilful nor wanton.” (Emphasis supplied)

The printing/publishing of the editorial was admitted by the 1st respondent.

After referring to the history of the Abhaya case and the efforts made by the

Kerala Kaumudi to bring the culprits to light, the 1st respondent denied the

allegation that the editorial contained contumacious, baseless or derogatory

statements against a Sitting Judge of this Court. The 1st respondent added

that the editorial only highlighted the action of the former Supreme Court

Judge in expressing opinion regarding the handling of the case, when the

matter was pending before this Court. It is further submitted that the

editorial only reflected the sentiments of the CBI and the general public. It

is also pointed out that it was only highlighting the adverse impact of such

statements by a former Supreme Court Judge and also the campaigns of the

supporters of the accused carried out in public. The 1st respondent

concludes his affidavit in the following manner:

“11. It is further submitted that several news items
published in Mathrubhoomi daily on various dates, highlighting
the allegations that invisible hands are working to interfere with

COCR 2/2009 7

the investigation of Abhaya case and to hush up the same. The
intention of the respondents was to warn against interference
with the case by external force. The respondents never intended
to interfere with the due course of justice. In fact, in public
interest, as a responsible newspaper, the respondents were
voicing its concern against the alleged interference with the
due course of justice by interested person. When the editorial
is read as a whole, it would show no disrespect for the
judiciary. But on the contrary, it was intended against
interference with the functioning of the judiciary. Moreover
the editorial was only a collective voice of the public who had
sent letters to the respondents and some of the letters were also
published in the editorial column. It is most respectfully
submitted that the respondents have utmost respect and regard
for this Honourable High Court and they have never
committed Contempt of Court. Despite the above, if the
Honourable Court is of a contrary view, the respondents herein
tender an unconditional apology to this Honourable Court and
pray that this Honourable Court may be pleased to close the
contempt against them.” (Emphasis supplied)

The 1st respondent, thus prayed that further proceedings in the matter may

be dropped.

6. Identical affidavits were filed by respondents 2 and 3 also. The 4th

respondent filed a reply in the form of an affidavit, stating that he has

nothing to do with the printing, publishing or editing of the Kerala Kaumudi

daily. According to him, notwithstanding the order of the Hon’ble Supreme

Court, he is not allowed to have any say in the editing or publication of the

newspaper.

7. In view of the said averments of the 4th respondent, the 2nd

COCR 2/2009 8

respondent has filed an additional affidavit, denying the allegations of the

4th respondent against other respondents. According to the 2nd respondent,

the 4th respondent is not attending any of the meetings of the Board of

Directors or taking part in the management of the affairs of the company.

The said respondent denied the allegation of the 4th respondent that the latter

is being prevented from functioning as Editor by others.

8. We heard Mr.Sanjay Ramaswamy, learned senior counsel for

respondents 1 to 3, Mr. A.M.Shaffique, learned senior counsel for the 4th

respondent, Mr.Noble Mathew, learned senior Government Pleader and

Mr.T.Krishnanunni, learned senior counsel who appeared as amicus curiae.

9. The learned senior counsel, who appeared for respondents 1 to 3,

submitted that if the editorial is read as a whole, it will show that the same

will not, in any way, influence the learned Judge hearing the Bail

Applications. It was never intended to influence the learned Judge also. The

newspaper only wanted to alert the learned Judge not to be influenced by

external factors. The learned senior counsel submitted that the newspaper

has greatest respect for this Court and read out the apology tendered in

paragraphs 2 and 11 of the affidavit of the 1st respondent. The learned

senior counsel, in support of his submissions, relied on the decisions in R.

COCR 2/2009 9

v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Ex parate Blackburn (No.2)

[(1968)2 All E.R. 319], Andre Paul Terence Ambard v. The Attorney-

General of Trinidad and Tobago [(1936)1 All E.R. 704], Attorney

General v. Times Newspapers Ltd. [(1973)3 All E.R. 54] and Vine

Products, Ltd. v. Mackenzie & Co.,Ltd.[(1965)3 All E.R. 58].

10. The learned senior counsel for the 4th respondent submitted that

the said respondent has nothing to do with the publication of the editorial,

as he is not permitted even to enter the office of the newspaper. The learned

senior counsel Mr. T.Krishnanunni, who appeared as amicus curiae, took us

through Rule 14 of the Rules. The learned senior counsel pointed out that

since the respondents have not admitted their guilt and tendered

unconditional apology, the Court may proceed to frame the charge and post

the case for trial. He also submitted that the averments in the editorial

clearly make out a case of criminal contempt. In support of his submissions,

the learned senior counsel relied on the decisions in High Court of Kerala

v. Pritish Nandy [1985 K.L.T. 732], In Re An Advocate [1985 K.L.T.

813], Raju Bose v. Pritish Nandy [1986 K.L.T. 303] and Haridas Das v.

Usha Rani [2007(3) K.L.T. 587 (SC)].

11. We gave anxious consideration to the submissions made at the

COCR 2/2009 10

Bar. Rule of law is the foundation of a civilized nation. Free and fearless

justice contemplates the existence of an independent court. The foundation

of the judiciary is the trust and the confidence of the people in its ability to

deliver fearless and impartial justice and as such no action can be permitted

which may shake that foundation itself. The purpose of contempt

jurisdiction is to uphold the majesty and dignity of the courts. It is a

special jurisdiction combining “the jury, the Judge and the hangman”. This

jurisdiction is not exercised to protect the dignity of an individual Judge, but

to protect the administration of justice from being maligned. Power to

punish for contempt is for maintenance of an effective legal system. But,

the said power cannot be invoked to wreak personal vengeance. Contempt

jurisdiction is basic to rule of law. It ensures “Be you ever so high the law

is above you”. The contempt power is a power conferred on courts for the

benefit of the people to command obedience when justice is at stake and

“authoritarian contumacy attacks judicial supremacy”. The courts should

not be unduly sensitive to fair comments or even outspoken comments

about their judgments or orders, made objectively, fairly and without any

malice, but no one can be permitted to distort orders of the court. In the

general interest of the community, it is imperative that authority of the court

should not be imperilled and there should be no unjustifiable interference in

COCR 2/2009 11

the administration of justice. In this context, it is appropriate to refer to the

words of caution of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, dealing with the exercise

of contempt power by the courts. Gajendragadkar C.J., in In re under

Art.143, Constitution of India [AIR 1965 SC 745] held as follows:

“We ought never to forget that the power to punish for
contempt, large as it is, must always be exercised cautiously,
wisely and with circumspection. Frequent or indiscriminate use
of this power in anger or irritation would not help to sustain the
dignity or status of the court, but may sometimes affect it
adversely. Wise Judges never forget that the best way to
sustain the dignity and status of their office is to deserve respect
from the public at large by the quality of their judgments, the
fearlessness, fairness and objectivity of their approach, and by
the restraint, dignity and decorum which they observe in their
judicial conduct.” (Emphasis supplied)

Sabyasachi Mukharji, J. (as His Lordship then was) in P.N.Duda v. P.Shiv

Shanker [(1988)3 SCC 167] observed as follows:

“Krishna Iyer, J. in his judgment observed that the Court
should act with seriousness and severity where justice is
jeopardized by a gross and/or unfounded attack on the Judges,
where the attack was calculated to obstruct or destroy the
judicial process. The court must harmonize the constitutional
values of free criticism, and the need for a fearless curial
process and its presiding functionary, the Judge. To criticize a
Judge fairly albeit fiercely, is no crime but a necessary right.
Where freedom of expression subserves public interest in
reasonable measure, public justice cannot gag it or manacle it.

The Court must avoid confusion between personal protection of
a libelled Judge and prevention of obstruction of public justice
and the community’s confidence in that great process. The
former is not contempt but latter is, although overlapping spaces

COCR 2/2009 12

abound. The fourth functional canon is that the Fourth Estate
should be given free play within responsible limits even when
the focus of its critical attention is the court, including the
higher court. The fifth normative guideline for the Judges to
observe is not to be hypersensitive even where distortions and
criticisms overstep the limits, but to deflate vulgar denunciation
by dignified bearing, and the sixth consideration is that if the
Court considers the attack on the Judge or judges as scurrilous,
offensive, intimidatory or malicious beyond condonable limits,
the strong arm of the law must strike a blow on him who
challenges the supremacy of the rule of law by fouling its
sources and stream.” (Emphasis supplied)

12. While considering the power of the court to punish for contempt,

the right of the citizen to free speech should also be taken into account.

Freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution is the

soul of our democracy. Freedom of speech means freedom to speak ideas

we hate. Propounders of popular ideas need no constitutional protection,

only heretics require it. Justice Holmes of the U.S. Supreme Court

explained the concept of free speech felicitously in the following words:

“But when men have realized that time has upset many
fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they
believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the
ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas–
that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself
accepted in the competition of the market; and that truth is the
only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.
That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. We should
be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of
opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death,
unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with

COCR 2/2009 13

the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate
check is required to save the country.”

Lord Denning, M.R. in R. v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Ex

parte Blackburn [(1968)2 All E.R. 319] held as follows:

“Let me say at once that we will never use this
jurisdiction as a means to uphold our own dignity. That must
rest on surer foundations. Nor will we use it to suppress those
who speak against us. We do not fear criticism, nor do we
resent it. For there is something far more important at stake. It
is no less than freedom of speech itself.

It is the right of every man, in Parliament or out of it, in
the Press or over the broadcast, to make fair comment, even
outspoken comment, on matters of public interest. Those who
comment can deal faithfully with all that is done in a court of
justice. They can say that we are mistaken, and our decisions
erroneous, whether they are subject to appeal or not. All we
would ask is that those who criticize us will remember that,
from the nature of our office, we cannot reply to their
criticisms. We cannot enter into public controversy. Still less
into political controversy. We must rely on our conduct itself to
be its own vindication.”

Krishna Iyer, J. in In re S. Mulgaokar [(1978)3 SCC 339] observed as

follows:

“The representative thinking on the subject is neatly
summed up by John R.Brown, Chief Judge:

‘Thus does Alexander again confront the Gordian Knot.

For our history demands that breaches of the unqualified
commands of the First Amendment cannot be tolerated and
freedom of the press must be given the broadest scope that a
liberty-living people can allow….. . On the other hand, our

COCR 2/2009 14

fundamental concepts of absolute fairness in trials dictate that
the environment within which justice is administered must be
maintained unpolluted by the potential infamous notoriety and
biased predilections which a completely unfettered but
omnipresent press can irrevocably engender in an age of the
mass media …. . ‘ ” (Emphasis supplied)

13. We may also fruitfully refer to the words of Justice Felix

Frankfurter in Bridges v. California [314 US 252 (1941)], which forcefully

advocate for the preservation of contempt power even in the face of right to

free speech.

“To say that the framers of the Constitution sanctified
veiled violence through coercive speech, directed against those
charged with adjudication, is not merely to make violence an
ingredient of justice; it mocks the very ideal of justice by
respecting its forms, while stultifying its uncontaminated
exercise.”

14. Keeping in mind the above principles laid down by great Judges,

now, we will examine the rival contentions urged before us. Here, it is

relevant to refer to the definition of criminal contempt contained in Section

2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, It reads as follows:

“(c) ‘criminal contempt’ means the publication (whether
by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible
representations, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any
other act whatsoever which–

(i) scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends
to lower the authority of, any Court; or

(ii) prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the

COCR 2/2009 15

due course of any judicial proceeding; or

(iii) interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or
tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other
manner.”

The learned senior counsel who appeared for respondents 1 to 3 canvassed

for a liberal view in evaluating the contents of the editorial for arriving at a

conclusion whether the publication of it would amount to contempt of court.

The decision in Andre Paul Terence Ambard v. The Attorney-General

of Trinidad and Tobago [(1936)1 All E.R. 704] was cited to canvass the

proposition that for committal for contempt of court, there must be

evidence in the article itself taken as a whole, that the publisher has acted

with untruth or malice or that he imputed improper motives to those taking

part in the administration of justice. The decision in Vine Products, Ltd. v.

Mackenzie & Co., Ltd. [(1965)3 All E.R. 58] was relied on to canvass

the position that a discussion of the rights of a party’s case in an action was

not automatically a contempt of court, but the test was whether in the

circumstances there was a real risk that the fair trial of the action was likely

to be prejudiced. The learned senior counsel for respondents 1 to 3

submitted that in fact, the editorial was published after the Bail

Applications were heard and reserved for orders. So, the chances of

COCR 2/2009 16

interfering with the fair trial of the case were remote in this case. Special

reference was made to the judgment of Lord Atkin rendered on behalf of

the Privy Council in Andre Paul Terence Ambard (supra) and it was

contended that the publication of the Article had no effect on a matter heard

and reserved by the learned Judge.The learned senior counsel also submitted

that there was a factual mistake in the editorial. Justice Hema had not

worked as junior counsel in the advocate’s office of the former Judge of the

Supreme Court of India, while he was practising at Kottayam. The factual

mistake on the above point contained in the editorial was corrected by the

newspaper next day itself by publishing an erratum statement.

15. The learned senior counsel Mr.T.Krishnanunni, who appeared to

assist the Court, canvassed for taking a strict view on the conduct of the

respondents. According to him, the article was published to influence the

decision of the learned Judge in the Bail Applications and therefore, it was a

contumacious interference with the administration of justice. The decisions

of this Court relied on by him were those which took a very strict view

concerning criminal contempt. The decision in Haridas Das v. Usha Rani

(supra) cited by the learned senior counsel was a decision of the Supreme

Court, wherein the contumacious references in the pleadings filed before the

COCR 2/2009 17

Apex Court against the Chief Justice of India were taken as gross acts of

contempt and punishment was imposed accordingly.

16. We notice that there is a growing tendency among the media to

make comments on the merits of the cause pending before the courts, while

reporting on pending proceedings. Talk shows are held even on the merits

of interim orders passed by the courts. Conflicting views, even on interim

orders, are broadcast and the anchor, in some cases, finally pronounce the

verdict also. Such trial by media is sure to prejudice either the

prosecution/plaintiff/petitioner or the accused/defendant/respondent. Such

programmes of the media have the effect of interfering with the

administration of justice and therefore, will amount to criminal contempt.

The theory of our system of justice is that “the conclusions to be reached in

a case will be induced only by evidence and argument in open court, and not

by outside influence, whether of private talk or public print”. Such

programmes make a mockery of this theory against outside influence. “The

right to sue and defend in courts is the alternative of force in an organised

society. It is the right conservative of all other rights and lies at the

foundation of orderly Government”. But, the said cardinal right is being

infringed by such talk shows. To keep the viewers remain glued to their

programme in the evening, the channels broadcast such talk shows. But, in

COCR 2/2009 18

that process, unknowingly, the system of administration of justice of our

State is being weakened and distorted. Interference even with police

investigation will amount to interference with the due course of justice.

Influencing the investigating officer will also amount to contempt of court.

In this context, we feel it is apposite to quote the words of McCardie, J in

Fisher v. Oldham Cpn. [(1930)2 KB 364]. In the said decision, the learned

Judge said:

“Suppose that a police officer arrested a man for serious
felony. Suppose, too, that the watch committee of the borough
at once passed a resolution directing that the felon should be
released. Of what value would such a resolution be? Not only
would it be the plain duty of the police officer to disregard the
resolution, but it would also be the duty of the chief constable
to consider whether an information should not at once be laid
against the members of the watch committee for a conspiracy
to obstruct the course of criminal justice”.

Watch committee at the borough council level is the controlling-cum-

disciplinary authority of the police. The above statement of the learned

Judge has been approved by the Privy Council in A.-G. for New South

Wales v. Perpetual Trustee Co. Ltd. [(1955) AC 457]. The comments

made by the Press in certain cases pending investigation and trial will,

definitely, amount to commission of criminal contempt in the technical

sense, as per the law of contempt enforced in India.

COCR 2/2009 19

17. Now, coming to the facts of the case, we are definitely of the

view that the editorial had the tendency to bring pressure on the learned

Judge, who was hearing the Bail Applications, to decide the petitions in

tune with the opinion of a section of the public. Thus, the editorial has the

tendency to interfere with the due course of justice. A reading of the

editorial as a whole is sure to convey such an impression, though the

respondents 1 to 3 would contend otherwise. Though, in this particular

case, the comments in the editorial will have the tendency to interfere with

the due course of justice, we do not think that the newspaper or the persons

running it, have the intention to scandalize this Court and thereby impair its

efficacy in administering impartial justice. So, we accept the unconditional

apology tendered by the respondents and we feel that further proceedings in

the matter should be dropped.

18. In this context, we will advert to the argument of the learned

senior counsel Sri.T.Krishnanunni, made with reference to Rule 14 of the

Rules. According to the learned senior counsel, since the respondents did

not admit the guilt and tender unconditional apology, this Court has no

other option, but to proceed to frame the charge and hold the trial of the

respondents. The said Rule reads as follows:

COCR 2/2009 20

“14. Hearing of the case and trial:– Upon consideration of the
reply filed by the respondent and after hearing the parties,

(a) if the respondent has tendered an unconditional
apology after admitting that he has committed the contempt, the
Court may proceed to pass such orders as it deems fit;

(b) if the respondent does not admit that he has
committed contempt, the Court may–

(i) proceed to frame the charge (subject to
modification or addition by the Court at any time), if
it is satisfied that there is a prima facie case; or

(ii) drop the proceedings and discharge the
respondent, if it is satisfied that there is no prima facie
case, or that it is not expedient to proceed.

(c) the respondent shall be furnished with a copy of the
charge framed, which shall be read over and explained to the
respondent. The court shall then record his plea, if any;

(d) if the respondent pleads guilty, the Court may adjudge
him guilty and proceed to pass such sentence as it deems fit;

(e) if the respondent pleads not guilty, the case may be
taken up for trial on the same day or posted to any subsequent
date as directed by the Court.” (Emphasis supplied)

Going by Rule 14(a), if the contemnor admits committing contempt and

tenders unconditional apology, the court may proceed to pass appropriate

orders. In this case, the publication of the editorial is admitted and in the

light of the prima facie view taken by this Court regarding its publication,

the respondents have tendered unconditional apology also. Though, they

COCR 2/2009 21

have not admitted that they have committed contempt, still, we feel that

their aforementioned conduct concerning the contempt will be covered by

Rule 14(a). Further, even assuming it does not come under Rule 14(a), we

think that it can be dealt with under Rule 14(b)(ii). The last part of clause

(ii) of sub-rule (b) of Rule 14 empowers the court to drop further

proceedings, if it is satisfied that it is not expedient to proceed with the

matter. Having regard to the facts of the case and the stand taken in the

affidavits of the respondents, we feel that it is not expedient or necessary to

proceed further with the contempt case.

In the result, the contempt case is closed.

K.BALAKRISHNAN NAIR, JUDGE.

M.L.JOSEPH FRANCIS, JUDGE.

nm/

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