|It is contempt of court and against public interest: Bench|
“Fair and temperate criticism of the court, even if strong, may not be actionable…”
“Attributing improper motives… is serious contempt of which notice… will be taken”
New Delhi: “Judge bashing and using derogatory and contemptuous language against judges has become a favourite pastime of some people. These statements tend to scandalise and lower the authority of the courts and cannot be permitted,” the Supreme Court has held.
“For [the] functioning of a democracy, an independent judiciary to dispense justice without fear and favour is paramount. Its strength is the faith and confidence of the people in that institution. That cannot be permitted to be undermined because that will be against the public interest,” said a Bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice D.K. Jain.
The Bench was giving the judgment while awarding two months imprisonment to a contemnor Apu Banik for criticising judges and making sweeping remarks against the judiciary.
It said, “Judiciary should not be reduced to the position of flies in the hands of wanton boys. Judge bashing is not and cannot be a substitute for constructive criticism.”
Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Pasayat said: “There can be no quarrel with the proposition that anyone who intends to tarnish the image of judiciary should not be allowed to go unpunished. By attacking the reputation of judges, the ultimate victim is the institution. The day the consumers of justice lose faith in the institution, that would be the darkest day for mankind. The importance of judiciary needs no reiteration. Judiciary is the bedrock and handmaid of democracy. If people lose faith in justice parted by a court of law, the entire democratic set-up would crumble down.”
Disposing of an appeal arising out of a Guwahati High Court judgment, the Bench said, “There is no doubt that the court like any other institution does not enjoy immunity from fair criticism. No court can claim to be always right although it does not spare any effort to be right according to the best of the ability, knowledge and judgment of the judges.
“The right to criticise an opinion of a court, to take issue with it upon its conclusions as to a legal proposition, or question its conception of the facts, so long as such criticisms are made in good faith and are in ordinarily decent and respectful language and are not designed to wilfully or maliciously misrepresent the position of the court cannot be questioned.
“While fair and temperate criticism of the court even if strong, may not be actionable, but attributing improper motives or tending to bring judges or courts into hatred and contempt or obstructing directly or indirectly with the functioning of courts is serious contempt of which notice must be and will be taken. Respect is expected not only from those to whom the judgment of the court is acceptable but also from those to whom it is repugnant.
“Those who err in their criticism by indulging in vilification of the institution of court, administration of justice and the instruments through which the administration acts, should take heed for they will act at their own peril.
“When criticism is based on obvious distortion or gross mis-statement and made in a manner which seems designed to lower respect of the judiciary and destroy public confidence in it, it cannot be ignored. Though certain imputations against the judge may be only libellous against that particular individual, it may at times amount to contempt also depending upon the gravity of the allegations,” the Bench added.
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