Supreme Court

Supreme Court: In the instant case the question arose that whether an enquiry commission setup under Commissions of Enquiry Act, 1952 and headed by a Supreme Court judge falls under the category of ‘Court’, therefore, whether the contempt of the chairman amounts to the contempt of Supreme Court, the Constitution Bench comprising R.M Lodha, CJ. and A.R Dave, S.J Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and S.K Singh, JJ.,  answered the question in negative, holding that a Commission despite being headed by a Supreme Court judge and having a legal character is not a ‘Court’ for the purposes of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

The facts in the instant case are that Kuldip Singh, J was appointed as chairman to probe into the omissions and commissions of Mr. Ram Krishna Hegde, former CM of Karnataka in 1990. The respondent who was then the editor of The Indian Express published an article criticizing the chairman, therefore leading to the initiation of the present contempt petition. The Solicitor General Mr Mohan Parasaran was present in the Court while the respondent was represented by Mr Ashok H. Desai.

The Constitution Bench observed that the functions of a commission appointed under the 1952 Act are not like a body discharging judicial functions or judicial power. The Constitution Bench relying upon Ram Krishna Dalmia v. S.R.Tendolkar, AIR 1958 SC 538, and horde of other cases on the same point and agreeing with the contention of the Solicitor General observed that a Commission appointed under the 1952 Act is in the nature of a statutory Commission and merely because a Commission of Inquiry is headed by a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court, it does not become an extended arm of this Court. As regarding contempt, the Bench stated that Section 10A of 1952 Act empowers the High Courts to take cognizance of the complaint in respect of the acts calculated to bring the Commission or any member thereof into disrepute.

Dr. Subramanian Swamy v. Arun Shourie, Contempt Petition (Crl.) No. 11 of 1990, decided on 23.07.2014

To read the full judgment, refer SCCOnLine

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Ordering closure of two decade old contempt petition filed in 1994 against certain bigwigs of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the publishers and reporters of Indian Express and Khabardar India, the Constitution Bench comprising R.M Lodha, CJ. and A.R Dave, S.J Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and S.K Singh, JJ., observed that the subject matter of the petition remained dormant for about two decades and the contemners either have aged enough to not to be able to respond to the charges or have tendered apology to the Court, therefore there is no necessity to carry on the contempt proceedings further.

The case arose from the post Babri Maszid demolition scenario where the President, under Article 143 of the Constitution, referred the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993 to the Constitution Bench for its opinion on the validity of the Act. During this time the President and the General Secretary of VHP, V.H. Dalmia and Giriraj Kishore, respectively made certain derogatory statements scandalizing the Court and questioning its authority in a press conference which was reported by the Indian Express and Khabardar India. The petitioner, a learned advocate representing himself brought in a contempt petition alleging that the statements reported in the abovementioned papers constitute criminal contempt and the authors of these statements and the publishers and reporters therefore are answerable to this Court and that a matter as grave as this should not be left undecided. The respondents were represented by Mrs. Manik Karanjawala.

The Constitution Bench observing upon the seriousness of the issue however stated that matter remained dormant for years and one of the six contemners, Mr. Giriraj Kishor is not in a position to respond to the charges owing to his old age and resultant bad health. Moreover two contemners have tendered unconditional apologies and for other contemners the Court did not take any cognizance of the criminal contempt, therefore the Court deemed it fit to order a closure of this contempt petition. Rajeev Dhawan v. Gulshan Kumar Mahajan, Contempt Petition (Crl.) No. 2 of 1994, decided on 23.07.2014 

To read the full judgment, refer to SCCOnLine