Ram Partap Sharma & Ors Vs. Daya
Nand & Ors  INSC 183 (19 August 1976)
RAY, A.N. (CJ) RAY, A.N. (CJ) UNTWALIA, N.L.
CITATION: 1977 AIR 809 1977 SCR (1) 242 1977
SCC (1) 150
Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, s. 19
(1)(b)--Finding of committal of contempt is basis of acceptance of
apology--Judge exposing himself to public controversy cannot shelter behind his
The appellants wrote a letter to the
President of India, with copies to some others including the Chief Justice of
Punjab and Haryana High Court, criticising, the behaviour of a High Court
Judge, who, during his visit to the Sessions Division of Bhivani, spoke against
the Government's policies and canvassed for a communist system. The High Court
issued a notice against the appellants; making out a case of criminal contempt
of court. The appellants tendered a conditional apology contingent on the
courts finding their action to be contempt of court. The apology was accepted.
Allowing the appeals and dropping the
contempt proceedings, the Court.
HELD: (1) The elementary basis of acceptance
of apology is that there is to be a finding of committal of contempt.
The Full Bench fell into the error of
accepting the apology without finding that the appellants committed any
contempt In the absence of such a finding, no question arises for acceptance of
apology. [245 F, 246 F-G] (2) Judges are, by reason of their office and nature
of work, expected not to get involved in controversial matters, or to concern
themselves with political issues or policies undertaken by political parties.
If any Judge addresses on political problems or controversies, the Judge
exposes himself to discussion by public. He cannot in such a case take shelter
behind his office if the public discusses and criticises the views expressed by
him, and the protective umbrella of the court cannot be used by way of bringing
the critics on the charge of contempt of Court. [246 A-D, F-G]
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeals Nos. 39-40 of 1976.
(From the Judgment and Order dated 1-12-1975
of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Criminal Original Nos. 13Crl. of 1975
and 14-Crl. of 1975).
D. Mookherjee and Harbans Singh and V.M.
Jain, for the appellants.
Deven Chetan Das, Advocate General, Haryana
and R.N. Sachthey, for the respondent.
The Judgment of the Court as delivered by
RAY, C.J.---These are appeals under section 19(1)(b) of the Contempt of Courts
Act, 1971 against the judgment and order dated 1 December, 1975 of the Full
Bench of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana.
243 The appellants wrote a letter on 20
February 1975 to the President with copies to the Prime Minister, Chief Justice
of India, the Chief Minister of Haryana and the Chief Justice of Punjab and
Haryana High Court. The letter was signed by 15 members of the Bar belonging to
the District Bar Association, Bhiwani. In that letter they brought to the
notice of the President that Justice D.S. Tewatia of the Punjab and Haryana
High Court visited the session division of Bhiwani and inspected the Courts
from 14 February 1975 to 19 February 1975.
In that letter they further stated as follows:
"The learned Judge met the members of the Bar on 15 February, 1975 in the
Bar Room, Bhiwani. During the course of the meeting, the learned Judge
criticised the Government's policy in regard to its attitude towards the
Besides the learned Judge was openly
attacking the Government in its political as well as administrative decision.
On the' whole, he gave an impression that he
was not a Judge but a politician who had come to Bar Room. When the members of
the Bar who had gone to meet the learned Judge in the P.W.D. Rest House,
Bhiwani he discussed politics with them and criticised the present executive in
general and the Congress Party in particular. He suggested the members of the
Bar to revolt against the present Government as it has suppressed the civil
liberation (sic) of the individuals and has also failed miserably in all
fields. The Judge further said that the prevailing system of Government is not
good in this country and we must adopt the communist form of Government which
can save the nation. Later on he had some private political discussion with the
local C.P.M. leaders. He also accepted the hospitality of the Technological
Institute of Textiles (Mills) people who also took him for a sightseeing from
Dadri to Pilani. The members of the District Bar Association highly regret the
attitude of Justice D.S. Tewatia and urge the Government to take appropriate
action in this regard".
Five members of the Bar Association at
Charkhi Dadri sent a letter addressed to the President. with copies to the
Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Chief Minister of Haryana,
the Chief Justice of India and the Prime Minister. In that letter they said
that Justice D.S. Tewatia visited the Bar and inspected the court at Charkhi
Dadri on 17 February, 1975. Thereafter they stated as follows: "While
talking with the members of the Bar, he pointed out that the library of this
Bar seems to be very poor. Then Shri Virender Kumar Single, a member of the Bar
requested the honourable Judge to help the Bar either by supplying books or by
allocating the grant by the High Court so that the needy Bar may be able to
purchase necessary books for the library. Then the Honourable Judge turned down
the request and replied that it is never possible in the present system of
Government of India. If you want this kind of help then you should prepare
yourself for the communist Government in India by creating such atmosphere in
the country. At another stage also during the course of his discussion with the
members of the Bar over the matter of Rajasthan Law students demands in which
they demanded a grant 244 of Rs. 5000/from the Government for the library of
each fresh law graduate and Rs. 200/per month for a period of two years the
initial stage of their legal practice he strongly emphasised the need for the
communist system of Society and Government in India to fulfil these demands.
The learned Judge also met Smt. Chandrawati
separately and discussed with her the political affairs of the State. He also
expressed his desire to see Comrade Dharam Singh a member of the Marxist
Communist Party at his residence before Smt. Chandrawati. During his stay in
the rest house he also discussed the teachers agitation and individual position
of various political leaders in the State. He also enquired all about Shri
Sohan Lal a leader of the teacher's movement in the State". The letter
concluded by saying that the Hon'ble Judge during his entire stay in his tour
deliberately showed the bent of his mind towards communism while exchanging
view on various matters.
The appellants took a copy of their letter to
the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana. The appellants could not see the Chief
Justice and left the letter with the Registrar in a closed cover. The Registrar
told them that the closed cover could reach the Hon'ble Chief Justice, A notice
was issued by the High Court on 12 March 1975 as follows: "Letter dated
20th February, 1975 a copy of an application dated 20 February, 1975 signed by
15 members of the District Bar Association, Bhiwani, has been placed for the
consideration of this Bench. On a perusal of the contents thereof, a
prima-facie case of criminal contempt is made out. We therefore direct that the
contempt of Court (Punjab 'and Haryana) Rules, 1974 be issued to each of the
signatories of the above said application, returnable for the 1st of April,
1975". The High Court did not take any action against two persons on the
letter written by five members of the Bar Association of Charkhi Dadri.
Each of the appellants affirmed an affidavit
in this pattern. "It is an article of faith with the deponent that dignity
and respect of all Courts and of all Judges and particularly of the High Court
must be maintained for, amongst other reasons, on that depends the orderly functioning
of the society as also prestige of the profession to which the deponent has the
honour to belong. The deponent has been taught to believe that a Judge ought
always to steer clear of all avoidable controversial matters. The deponent most
respectfully submits that the contents of the letter which he and others
addressed to the President of India cannot be construed as scandalising the
Hon'ble Judge or the Court in any manner to weaken people's faith in the
administration of justice. The letter in question was addressed by the deponent
to the President of India with copies to others with the sole object of
conveying the opinion that the public expression by the Hon'ble Judge of his
personal views on controversial political matters concerning the merits and
demerits of the present system of the Government was not in keeping with the
well accepted role of proverbial aloofness of a Judge. The letter was addressed
,bona fide, in good faith and without 245 any ill-will and no publicity was
given to it. It was intended to be a privileged communication made solely with
a view to uphold the dignity of the Court. In order to prevent unwanted
disclosure of its contents, the communication in question was brought
personally by two members of the Bar Association, Bhiwani to Chandigarh in a
closed cover addressed to the Chief Justice for being handed over to him for
his personal attention. The deponent submits that the contents of the letter.
have no relevance or relation to the functioning of the learned Judge of the
High Court. The letter does not interfere much less substantially with due
course of justice or proper administration of law by the courts. The deponent
submits that there was no intention whatsoever on his part to scandalise the
Hon'ble Judge or this Hon'ble Court or to lower the authority or undermine the
prestige of the learned Judge or of the Hon'ble Court or to weaken in any way
the confidence of the people in the administration of justice. The deponent
respectfully submits that the communication does not bear out any foundation
for an action for criminal contempt. In any case, if in view of this Hon'ble
Court, the action of the deponent in addressing the letter in question
constituted for any reason contempt of court, one would be sorrier than the
deponent himself. Therefore, the deponent tenders his apology to this Hon'ble
Court, for the same, and prays for its acceptance." The Full Bench of the
High Court consisting of Justice Surjit Singh Sandhawalia, Justice Prem Chand
Jain and Justice Bhupinder Singh Dhillon extracted portions from the affidavit
of the appellants to which references have been made. The Full Bench thereafter
referred to paragraph 9 of the affidavit where the deponents said that "if
in view of this Hon'ble Court the action of the deponent in addressing the
letter in question constituted for any reason contempt of court, no one would
be sorrier than the deponent himself. Therefore, the deponent tender his
apology to this Hon'ble Court for the same and prays for its acceptance".
After the recital of paragraph 9 the judgment
of the Full Bench said as follows: "In view of the averments made in the
affidavit filed in rely and in particular in paragraph 9 thereof we accept the
apology tendered on behalf of the respondents and discharge the rule issued
In our view the judgment is utterly unsound
and unsustainable. The elementary basis of acceptance of apology is that there
is to be a finding of committal of contempt. The deponents stated that if the
Court is of the view that the letter of the deponents constitute for any reason
contempt of court, the deponents tender apology. It is a conditional apology.
The condition is that if there is contempt the deponents tender apology. In the
absence of any finding by the High Court that the appellants committed any
contempt of court there was never any occasion for acceptance of apology.
It appears before us that the allegations in
the letter were not disputed and challenged. The High Court proceeded on the
basis that the letters written by the appellants were correct. It is indeed
curious 246 that the High Court in the notice referred to the letter of the
appellant and said "on a perusal of the contents thereof a prima facie
case contempt is made out". The High Court did not mention which
particular portion of the letter constituted contempt of court.
It is necessary to state here that if any
Judge addresses on political problems or controversies the Judge exposes
himself to discussion by public. The reason is that the Judge travels from his
judicial work and descends into the arena of politics and parties. The Judge
cannot in such a case take shelter behind his office if the public discusses
and criticises the views expressed by him. The reason is obvious. It is no part
of the duty of a Judge nor is it a duty in discharge of office of a Judge to go
and address a meeting on political matters to redress grievances of the people.
However, if the speech of any Judge is
criticised and if it becomes a disputed question of fact as to whether any
Judge did speak or not as is alleged by the writer the matter would have to be
ascertained by the court on facts whether the Judge concerned did speak on the
matters ascribed to him before the court would take any action against the
persons who would criticise the Judge's speech.
We wish to make it clear that if on facts it
appears that the Judge did say things or matters about politics such utterances
or views or observations will be the personal opinions expressed by the Judge,
and, therefore, the protective umbrella of the court cannot be used by way of
bringing the critics on the charge of contempt of court.
It also appears in the letter that there is
an allegation that the Judge accepted hospitality of some organisation. To say
that will not by itself be a contempt. All we need say is that it will not be
correct and proper for any Judge to accept the invitation and hospitality of
any business or commercial organisation or of any political party or of any
club or organisation run on sectarian, communal or parochial lines. Invitations
by the Bar Association or social invitations naturally Stand on a different
footing and no one will find an exception to any Judge attending a social
Judges are by reason of their office and
nature of work expected not to get involved in controversial matters, or to
concern themselves with political issues or policies under taken by political
parties as a part of their political programme.
We are of opinion that the Full Bench fell
into the error of accepting the apology without finding that the appellants
committed any contempt. In the absence of such a finding no question arises for
acceptance of apology.
In view of the fact that the High Court
proceeded on the basis that the allegations in the letter were unchallenged we
are of opinion that the matters did not constitute any contempt. The High.
Court should have dropped the proceedings and not pursued the matter.
247 The judgment is set aside. The contempt
proceedings are dropped. We should state here that the Advocate General of
Haryana quite fairly stated that the letter did not constitute any contempt.
M.R. Appeals allowed.