Contempt Petition (Crl.) Nos. 11 and 12 of 1990. Case: Subramanian Swamy Vs Arun Shourie. Supreme Court (India)

Case NumberContempt Petition (Crl.) Nos. 11 and 12 of 1990
CounselFor Appearing Parties: Mohan Parasaran, SG, Ashok H. Desai, Arvind Datar, Sr. Advs., Bharat Sangal, Madhavi Divan, Bina Gupta, Abhay A. Jena and Harsh Desai, Advs.
JudgesR.M. Lodha, C.J.I., Anil R. Dave, Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh, JJ.
IssueIndian Evidence Act, 1872 - Section 3; Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 - Sections 3, 3(1), 10A; Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 - Sections 2, 12, 13, 15, 15(1), 20; Public Servants (Inquiries) Act, 1850; Contempt of Courts Act, 1952; Industrial Disputes Act - Section 7; Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) - Sections 4, 5, 5(4), 5(5), 5A, 10, 10A,...
Citation2014 (VIII) AD 125 (SC), 2014 (III) CCR 483 (SC), 2014 (306) ELT 193 (SC), 2014 GLH (2) 743, JT 2014 (8) SC 369, 2014 (5) KarLJ 161 (SC), 2014 (3) KLJ 655, 2014 (3) MLJ 462 (Crl) (SC), 2014 (3) RCR 797 (Cri), 2014 (8) SCALE 679
Judgement DateJuly 23, 2014
CourtSupreme Court (India)


R.M. Lodha, C.J.I.

  1. In the issue of Indian Express of August 13, 1990, an editorial was published bearing the caption "If shame had survived". The editorial reads as under:

    If shame had survived

    The legal opinion that the former Chief Justice of India, Mr. Y.V. Chandrachud, has given on the Kuldip Singh Commission's report is a stunning indictment. Succinct, understated to the point of being deferential, scrupulously adhering to facts and law, eschewing completely the slightest attribution of any motive to the Commission, the opinion is a model of rectitude. Nothing in the report survives it "evidence" that it was agreed would not be pressed relied on as a fulcrum; evidence of the one witness who was the hub of the decisions wholly disregarded; indictments framed on "probable possibility", theories invented to read meanings into documents and the manifest, straightforward explanation ignored; the Commission itself as well as the energetic prosecutor himself declaring one day that neither had a shred of evidence which cast a doubt on Hegde and the very next day declaring a conclusion; refusing to common witnesses for cross-examination on the pretext that the Commission did not have the power to call them-this in the face of clear judgments to the contrary; then invoking a section of the Indian Evidence Act which applies to a person making a dying declaration; ignoring the fact that the man who is said to have been benefited has lost Rs. 55 lakh which he deposited; insinuating-and building an entire indictment on the insinuation-that the builder had fabricated a front, when the actual record shows that he was doing everything openly and with all the formalities which the law required; ignoring the fact that the land was to be given to the builder at three times the cost of acquisition and that on top of it development charges were to be levied from 4 to 6 times the cost of acquisition; ignoring entirely the fact that the land was never transferred and that it was not transferred solely because of the then Chief Minister's insistence that rules be framed under which all such cases would be dealt with. It is the longest possible list of suppresso veri suggesto falsi.

    If there had been any sense of honour or shame, a Judge would never have done any of this. If there were any residual sense of honour or shame, the Judge having done any of it and having been found doing it, would have vacated his seat. But this is India. of 1990, the Commissioner Kuldip Singh having perpetrated such perversities will continue to sit in judgment on the fortunes and reputations of countless citizens. He will continue to do so from nothing less than the Supreme Court of India itself.

    Such is our condition. And so helpless are we that there is nothing we can do about such a "Judge". Save one thing. The only way to mitigate the injuries that such persons inflict on citizens is for all of us to thoroughly examine the indictments or certificates they hand out. Only that exercise will show up these indictments and certificates for the perversities which they are and only in that way can their effect be diluted. "Who has the time to read voluminous reports, to sift evidence?" But if the issue is important enough for us to form an opinion on it, it is our duty to find the time to examine such reports, to examine as well the conduct of the commissioners who perpetrate them.

  2. It so happened that Justice Kuldip Singh, the then sitting Judge of the Supreme Court, was appointed as Chairman, Commission of Inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 (hereinafter referred to as '1952 Act') to probe into alleged acts of omissions and commissions by Shri Ramakrishna Hegde, the former Chief Minister of Karnataka. The one man Commission headed by Justice Kuldip Singh submitted its report on 22.06.1990.

  3. These two contempt matters, one by Contempt Petition (Crl.) No. 11 of 1990 Dr. Subramanian Swamy v. Arun Shourie and the other1 suo motu arise from the editorial published in Indian Express as quoted above. In the contempt petition filed by Dr. Subramanian Swamy on 23.08.1990 Under Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as, "1971 Act") against the then Editor of Indian Express, Mr. Arun Shourie, it is contended that the editorial is a scandalous statement in respect of a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court of India and the judiciary. It lowers the authority of this Court as well as shakes public confidence in it and amounts to criminal contempt of this Court. It is submitted that unless this Court acts promptly and if necessary, suo motu in the matter, sitting Judges would be helpless and unable to defend themselves, and in the process, public confidence in judges and the courts would be eroded.

  4. It is pertinent to notice here that the then Chief Justice of India obtained opinion of the Attorney General for India in the matter. The then Attorney General Shri Soli Sorabjee in his opinion dated 27.08.1990 noted that the editorial had, prima facie, overstepped the limits of permissible criticism and the law of contempt, as was existing in the country, did not provide for truth as defence and, therefore, he opined that an explanation was called for and a notice could be issued for that purpose. In his view, the question whether the contempt of a Commission or Commissioner appointed under the 1952 Act tantamounts to contempt of the High Court or Supreme Court of which the Commissioner is member needs to be authoritatively settled by the Supreme Court in view of the reoccurrence of the issue.

  5. On 03.09.1990, the suo motu contempt matter and so also the contempt petition filed by Dr. Subramanian Swamy came up for consideration before the three Judge Bench of this Court headed by the Hon'ble the Chief Justice. The proceeding of 03.09.1990 reads as under:

    In Re: Arun Shourie and Anr.

    We have seen the editorial in the "Indian Express" of August 13, 1990. We have obtained the opinion of the Attorney General of India in the matter. We consider that paragraphs 2 and 3 of the editorial tend to fall within the definition of 'criminal contempt' in Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. We, therefore, direct that notice returnable on 8th October, 1990 be issued to the alleged contemners calling upon them to show cause why proceedings for contempt of this Court Under Article 129 of the Constitution should not be initiated against them in respect of the offending editorial published by them. The contemners shall be present in the Court in person on 8th October, 1990. A copy of the opinion given by the Attorney General in the matter should accompany the notice to be issued to the contemners. They may file their affidavits in support of their defence on or before 8th October, 1990.

    Issue notice to the Attorney General of India to appear and assist the Court in hearing the matter.


    Learned Attorney General of India has also drawn our attention to an issue of the 'Current' (August 25-31, 1990) which contains an Article by M.V. Kamath. We will consider that matter separately later on.

    Dr. Subramanian Swamy v. Mr. Arun Shourie:

    Issue notice returnable on 8th October, 1990 stating therein why contempt proceedings should not be initiated.

  6. Respondent Arun Shourie submitted his reply affidavit on 13.10.1990. We shall refer to his defence and objections at an appropriate place little later. Suffice, however, to note at this stage that in the counter affidavit, the Respondent prayed that, in view of the sensitive nature of the facts, he would choose to refrain from setting out those facts in the affidavit but would prefer to put them in the form of a signed statement in a sealed cover for the perusal of the Court which may be treated as an integral part of the counter affidavit. The Court, however, on 04.03.1991 rejected his prayer and observed that the procedure suggested by the Respondent was not an acceptable procedure and was inconsistent with recognized form of the pleadings. The Respondent was granted liberty to withdraw the sealed cover from the Court. He was given an opportunity to file additional affidavit.

  7. The matters remained dormant for many years. On 25.08.19982, a three Judge Bench directed that these matters be placed before a Constitution Bench.

  8. This is how these matters have come up for consideration before the Constitution Bench. We have heard Mr. Mohan Parasaran, learned Solicitor General and Mr. Ashok H. Desai, learned senior counsel for the Respondent.

  9. It may be observed immediately that the learned Solicitor General...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT