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Report No. 274

4.11 In Chandra Shashi v. Anil Kumar Verma, (1995) 1 SCC 421 the Supreme Court observed that "if recourse to falsehood is taken with oblique motive, the same would definitely hinder, hamper or impede even flow of justice and would prevent the courts from performing their legal duties as they are supposed to do."

4.12 In re : Bineet Kumar Singh (supra), a forged/fabricated order of Supreme Court was used for the purpose of conferring some benefits on a group of persons. Supreme Court took a strict view of the matter and observed that "the law of contempt of court is essentially meant for keeping the administration of justice pure and undefiled".

4.13 The sanctity of law which is sustained through dignity of courts cannot be allowed to be marred by errant behaviour by any counsel or litigant69. The Supreme Court in In re: Sanjiv Datta, Dy. Secy., Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, (1995) 3 SCC 619, dealing with the issue of errant behavior by a counsel in terms of incomplete and inaccurate pleadings, held as under:

"Some members of the profession have been adopting perceptibly casual approach to the practice of the profession as is evident from their absence when the matters are called out, the filing of incomplete and inaccurate pleadings - many times even illegible and without personal check and verification, the non-payment of court fees and process fees, the failure to remove office objections, the failure to take steps to serve the parties, et. al.

They do not realise the seriousness of these acts and omissions. They not only amount to the contempt of the court but do positive dis-service to the litigants and create embarrassing situation in the court leading to avoidable unpleasantness and delay in the disposal of matters. This augurs ill for the health of our judicial system."

4.14 Access to justice is a valuable fundamental and human right. And, expeditious disposal of criminal cases is an integral part of fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has persistently, consistently and repeatedly held that advocates resorting to strike for any reason whatsoever violate the aforesaid rights of the citizens, and such strikes are always illegal. (vide M. H. Hosket v. State of Maharastra, AIR 1978 SC 1548; Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary., State of Bihar, AIR 1979 SC 1360; State of Maharashtra v. Champalal Punjaji Shah, AIR 1981 SC 1675; Rudul Sah v. State of Bihar & Anr., AIR 1983 SC 1086; Kishore Chand v. State of Himachal Pradesh, AIR 1990 SC 2140; Moses Wilson & Ors. v. Kasturiba & Ors., AIR 2008 SC 379; L.I.C. of India v. R. Suresh (2008) 11 SCC 319; Vakil Prasad Singh v. State of Bihar, AIR 2009 SC 1822; Tamilnad Mercantile Bank Share Holders Welfare Association (7) v. S. C. Sekar & Ors., (2009) 2 SCC 784; and Babubhai Bhimabai Bokharia v. State of Gujrat, AIR 2013 SC 3648)

4.15 On similar lines, in the case of Hussain & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors., AIR 2017 SC 1362, looking into the issue of interference with justice, the Supreme Court directed the high courts to take stringent measures against the erring advocates who violate the directions issued by the Courts to the lawyers, from time to time, not to proceed on strike, as "...denial of speedy justice is a threat to public confidence in the administration of justice."

4.16 Very recently on March 28, 2018, the Supreme Court in Criminal Appeal No. 470 of 2018, Krishnakant Tamrakar v. State of Madhya Pradesh, addressing the issue of violation of the right of access to justice, observed that every resolution of advocates to go on strike and abstain from work is per se contempt, and that the matter is therefore included within the contempt or inherent jurisdiction of this Court.

The Court held that in such a case, the court may direct that the office bearers of the Bar Association/Bar Council who passed such resolution for strikes etc. to be restrained from appearing before any court for a specified period or till they purge themselves of contempt to the satisfaction of the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court based on an appropriate undertaking/conditions. The Court in its order also made reference to the 266th Report of The Law Commission of India on 'The Advocates Act, 1961 (Regulation of the Legal Profession)', noting from the report that such conduct of the advocates affects functioning of courts and particularly it contributes to pendency of cases.

4.17 That being said, it may be noted that the Supreme Court made a distinction between a mere libel or defamation of a Judge and a contempt of court or 'scandalising of a judge in relation his office', and laid down a test of "whether the wrong is done to the judge personally or it is done to the public."70. Expounding on it further, in Shri Baradakanta Mishra v. The Registrar of Orissa High Court & Anr., AIR 1974 SC 710, the Court observed: "...the key word is "justice", not "judge"; the key-note thought is unobstructed public justice, not the self-defence of a judge; the corner-stone of the contempt law is the accommodation of two Constitutional values-the right of free speech and the right to independent justice. The ignition of contempt action should be substantial and mala fide interference with fearless judicial action, not fair comment or trivial reflections on the judicial process and personnel."

4.18 Even internationally, the distinction between libel / defamation of a Judge and a contempt of court has been well recognized. For instance, in the United States, the Supreme Court in Craig v. Harney, 331 US 367 (1947), observed that "the law of contempt is not made for the protection of Judges who may be sensitive to the winds of public opinion. Judges are supposed to be men of fortitude, able to thrive in a hardy climate."

Review of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 Back

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