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The Advocate General (A.P.) v. Rachapudi Subba Rao

The Advocate General (A.P.)
Rachapudi Subba Rao

(High Court Of Telangana)

Contempt Case No. 14 Of 1975 | 23-04-1975

A. Sambasiva Rao, Actg. C.J.

We start consideration of the case with a brief statement of the events that have caused the filing of the contempt case, The respondent (contemner) filed O.S. No. 101/73 in the Subordinate Judge's Court, Vidayawada against five defendant for declaration of has title and for injunction in respect of a building. The 1st defendant in that suit, in his turn, filed O.S. No. 275/72 in the same court against the respondent for possesion of the same building and for recovery of damages for occupation and user. The 1st Additional Subordinate Judge, Vijayawada, heard the two suits together and by a common judgment dated 31st of October, 1974 dismissed the respondent's suit and decreed the other one against him, both with costs. The decree-holder filed an execution petition for execution of the decree in his favour and the respondent filed an application for stay of that execution. They were pending enquiry.

2. On 25th of December, 1974 the respondent issued a notice to the 1st Additional Subordinate Judge who had disposed of the two suits, which is the bone of contention in this case. It is fairly a long notice and we prefer to extract verbatim some of the important portions which would demonstrate the tenor and the temper with which the notice was issued. In paragraph 3 it is alleged :-

"In the said judgment (O.S. Nos. 101/73 and 275/72) your honour created new facts by making third version without evidence as detailed below among others." Then the respondent purported to give a large number of instances which, he thought would illustrate the allegation he makes in paragraph 3. In paragraph 4 he accuses :

"Your honour has intentionally with bad faith and maliciously disordered the existing oral and documentary evidence with a view to help the plaintiff. In O.S. 275/72 causing damage and injury to me." In paragraph 5 he alleged :

"Your honour has maintained different standards in the same judgment with regard to Exs. B-9, B-10, B-13 and A-15 to A-19 and A-20 to A-22 and B-11 and B-12 in para No. 25."

In paragraph 6 he reiterates :

"Your honour has maintained different standards even with regard to self-serving statements."

In paragraph 16 it is said :

"Your honour has side-tracked the binding direct decisions of the High Courts and the Supreme Court disordering the contents of the said decisions."

In paragraph 18 it is averred :

"So under these circumstances it cannot be said that these acts done by your good-self in the discharge of your Honour's judicial duty within the limits of your honour's jurisdiction in good faith, for the abovesaid acts themselves prove that your honour has done these acts with mala fide exercise of powers without jurisdiction."

Then the notice is concluded in the following manner :

"19. Your Honour has done these acts in excess of jurisdiction knowing the law regarding your own powers and duties. So, your honour is liable in tort to pay damages for the heavy monetary loss incurred by me and for the injury.

20. Hence, I request your honour to pay a sum of Rs. 30,000/- by way of damages for the heavy monetary loss incurred by me and for the injury within a reasonable time, or else I will be compelled to seek legal redress for the same.

21. I hereby reserve my right to take available legal actions against your honour under the other enactments."

3. On receipt of this notice, the 1st Additional Subordinate Judge sent it to the High Court for necessary action. The High Court requested the learned Advocate General to institute contempt proceedings. Consequently, he has brought this case and incidentally he has also mentioned in the affidavit that the respondent is in the habit of making very many unwarranted allegations against the members of the Bar and Judges and has been persistently sending complaints to the Bar Council against Advocates.

4. Many defences are raised in the counter-affidavit. A reading of the counter-affidavit shows that the respondent is not only particular to justify the issuance of the notice but also considers that such notices are intended to uphold the purity of administration of justice and to safeguard the interests of the litigating public.

5. The passages from the notice which we have extracted above would per se show in a very telling manner, the scandalous and scurrilous attack which the respondent has chosen to make against the judicial officer who had held against him in a legal proceeding. They are not mere ravings of a badly disappointed litigant who has lost his case. If they are merely that, probably the court may not take serious view of the allegations. Human nature as it is, a disappointed and defeated person is likely to react, losing a cause, in a peevish manner. Day in and day out courts of law will have to face such situations. But the notice issued by the respondent is not of that nature. It is undoubtedly a deliberate and determined attempt on the part of the respondent to scandalize the Judge and the court for having held against him by imputing lack of good faith and mala fides to a judicial officer in the discharge of his judicial duties. It is also an attempt to frighten the judicial officer by threatening to file a suit for damage for Rs. 30,000/-. It is certainly intended to scandalize the Judge and to undermine his self-confidence in dealing with causes that come up before him for trial in future. It is true that a judicial officer cannot afford to be chicken-hearted while discharging his judicial functions and cannot be apprehensive of criticism about his decisions. He is expected to decide cases according to the best of his conscience and knowledge. All the same, there is no gainsaying the fact that if litigants send threatening notices to Judges imputing mala fides and lack of bona fides to them and threatening them with legal action, they would certainly tend to scandalize the Judge to terribly embarrass him and to lower the authority of his office and court. Thus what the respondent has stated in the notice under consideration is clearly and squarely 'criminal contempt' as defined by Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The sending of a notice by the respondent without question falls within the ambit of doing any act whatsoever which scandalizes or tends to scandalize or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any court as explained by Section 2(c).

6. Many defences are sought to be raised in the counter-affidavit. But Sri Seshagiri Rao, learned counsel for the respondent. discards many of them and concentrates only on a few. Patently realising that he ia called upon to defend an undefendable action, he takes resort to very many innovations. To start with he contends that the entire scheme and tenor of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 is that there should be publication of any matter which scandalizes the court or interferes with any judicial proceeding before it could be called contempt. In other words, he maintains that if it is merely a communication by the contemner to the Judge, there is no publication of the communication and so there is no contempt. In order to demonstrate that publication is the basic feature of all contempt, learned counsel invites our attention to Sections 3, 4, 5 and 7. Those provisions no doubt refer to publication. But to limit contempt to publication alone would be tantamount to destruction of the basic structure of the law of contempt. Even without publication, scurrilous accusations against a judicial officer scandalising and embarrassing him can be made. Even without a third party knowing about it, a communication may be sent to the Judge, who is hearing a cause or who has already disposed it of, making scurrilous allegations and accusations against him including want of bona fides, good faith etc. It would certainly offend the conscience of the Judge, embarrassing and scandalising him. It may tend to interfere with his disposal of other matters before him, because an impression might be created in his mind, on account of the communication that his bona fides are doubted and that mala fides are being imputed to him. We do not, therefore, think that publication of a notice or scurrilous writing about a Judge alone would constitute contempt. Even direct communication to the Judge is of the same effect and result. We do not think any authority is necessary to support this view of ours. Any way, we would like to refer to three decisions. The first one is Brahma Prakasha Sharma v. State of U.P., 1953 SCJ 521 = (AIR 1954 SC 10), where Mukherjee, J. observed that it the publication of a disparaging statement is calculated to interfere with the due course of justice or proper administration of law by such Court, it can be punished summarily as contempt. One is a wrong done to the Judge personally while the other is a wrong done to the public. If it is likely to cause embarrassment in the mind of the Judge himself in the discharge of his judicial duties, it is equally contempt. In Shareef v. Judges of the High Court of Nagpur, 1955 SCJ 54 = (AIR 1955 SC 19) it was held that making statements in pleadings or applications would bring the contemner within the ambit of the law of Contempt and it would be no defence to say that he had not given publicity to these allegations either in newspapers or by distribution of pamphlet as was sought to be argued on behalf of the respondent. A Division Bench of this Court has taken the same view in Advocate General v. Seshagiri Rao (ILR (1959) Andh Pra 1282).

7. The next contention of the learned counsel for the contemner is that since the suite had been disposed of by the Judge, there is nothing more which is pending before him and consequently there cannot be any interference with course of justice. So, he maintains that there is no contempt. In other words, he wants to argue that if something is done only in pending matters, that will become contempt if it comes within the scope of contempt. Learned Advocate General wants to say that since the execution petitions are not yet disposed of the matters must be deemed to be still pending. We do not however, think it is necessary to go into the question whether the matter is really pending or not. We will assume, for the purpose of this decision, that the matters have been disposed of. Even then, the communication of this nature is certainly contempt, because it is doing an act which "scandalises or tends to scandalise or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any court." Such notices and attacks on the integrity of the Judges tend to undermine the very psychology of the judicial officer and his judicial powers. Once that is the effect of such a notice, it is clearly interfering with or obstructing the administration of justice. We have, therefore no hesitation to hold that it is criminal contempt within the scope of Section 2(c) of the Act though the suits have been disposed of. A Division Bench of this Court took the same view in Advocate General v. Sesbagiri Rao (AIR 1966 Andh Pra 167). Venkatesam J. speaking for the Bench, observed :-

"It makes no difference that the attacks were made not during the pendency of a proceeding but after its disposal." So, this argument is easily repelled.

8. The next point taken by the learned counsel for the respondent is that the contempt proceedings are premature. This contention is founded on the premise that a suit to recover damages by the respondent is maintainable against a judicial officer. Since a notice claiming damages should precede the institution of such a suit, the respondent issued this notice. Filing of such a suit is not excluded by the provisions of the Judicial Officers' Protection Act. So, a suit tor recovery of damages against a judicial officer would be maintainable when it is filed and if the court, which tries that suit, feels that the plaint contains any scandalous matter, it has power to direct the plaintiff under Order 6, Rule 16, C.P.C. to strike out that passage. It is only when the court finds that the plaint contains scandalous material, the occasion for taking contempt proceedings would arise and not until then. This is the reasoning of the learned counsel and needless to say that this is a desperate argument. What we are now concerned with is not a possible plaint that may or may not be filed but a notice issued by the respondent to the judicial officer imputing to him all sorts of qualities which a judicial officer should not have. We will have to, therefore, decide whether the present notice constitutes contempt and not whether a plaint which may be possibly filed would contain any scandalous matter.

9. Further this argument is wholly untenable for the reason that the threatened suit for recovery of damages is not maintainable. The disposal of the suits by the judicial officer is clearly protected by the provisions of the Judicial Officers' Protection Act. Section 1 of that Act clearly lays down that no Judge, Magistrate, Justice of the Peace, Collector or other person acting judicially shall be liable to be sued in any civil court for any act done or ordered to be done by him in the discharge of his judicial duty, whether or not within the limits of his jurisdiction; provided that he at the time, in good faith, believed himself to have jurisdiction to do or order the act complained of; and no officer of any court or other person bound to execute the lawful warrants or orders of any such Judge, Magistrate, Justice of the Peace, Collector, or other person acting judicially shall be liable to be sued in any civil court, for the execution of any warrant or order, which he would be bound to execute, if within the jurisdiction of the person issuing the same. Thus, the Act protects a Judicial officer when he acts in his judicial capacity. It grants wide field or protection to judicial officers so long as they act in the discharge of their judicial functions. If the act is done by him in the discharge of his judicial functions and he bona fide believes that it is within his jurisdiction; the protection is complete and total and no enquiry will be entertained whether the act done was illegal or that it was done without believing in good faith that he had jurisdiction to do the act complained of. Even if the act done by him is not within his jurisdiction, even then, he is protected if he, in good faith, believed that he had jurisdiction to do the act. We draw full support to this understanding of Section 1 of the Judicial Officers' Protection Act from the observations of the Supreme Court in Anwar Hussain v. Ajoy Kumar (AIR 1965 SC 1651) and those of the Division Bench of this court in Advocate General v. Seshagiri Rao (supra).

10. Learned counsel, however, relied on S. Pande v. S. C. Gupta (AIR 1969 Pat 194) and R. S. Singh v. Shiv Kumar (AIR 1971 All 170) to maintain that a suit does lie. There is nothing in the first of the two decisions which supports this contention. In the Patna case a person, who was standing in the court premises, was ordered by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate to be arrested in order to coerce and put undue pressure upon him for paying up certain dues. He was put in custody and refused bail. It was held in that case that the power exercised in arresting the plaintiff was an administrative or executive power and not a judicial one. It was also found that the Magistrate acted mala fide and illegally by coercing the plaintiff and that the arrest could not be justified under Section 65 of the Criminal Procedure Code. So this is of no consequence to the respondent's contention. In R. S. Singh v. Shiv Kumar (AIR 1971 All 170), it is no doubt observed that the power to punish persons for contempt is not available as a cloak for judicial authorities to cover up their inefficiency and corruption or to stifle criticism made in good faith against such officers. The facts there are completely and totally different from the present facts. It cannot be claimed that the respondent has any good faith in levelling the serious charges against a judicial officer. But then what is important is that even the respondent does not dispute that the learned Subordinate Judge had jurisdiction to entertain the suits and render judgments. Once that much is conceded, the protection afforded by the Judicial Officers' Protection Act is fully available to the learned Subordinate Judge and consequently no suit for damages is maintainable against him. With the result the issuance of the notice cannot be justified as a prelude to filing a suit which the respondent has a right to institute. In any case, even if such a suit could be said to be maintainable for argument's sake, these scurrilous allegations are wholly irrelevant and impertinent to such a notice. We, therefore, hold that the threatened suit by the respondent is not maintainable and the notice as a prelude thereto is wholly untenable.

11. In any case, there is no warrant for the contention that the present contempt proceedings are premature. Even supposing a suit is maintainable and if the notice preceding it contains scandalous and scurrilous allegations against a Judge about acts which he did in the course of the discharge of his judicial duties, contempt proceedings can be taken at any stage. In Advocate General v. Seshagiri Rao (AIR 1966 Andh Pra 167) (supra) a notice was sent to the Magistrate alleging that the Magistrate had acted to help a Salt Officer and a person belonging to a particular community. The learned Judges held that the allegations amounted to contempt of court as they constituted an attack on the competence and integrity of the judicial officers. The learned Judges opined that the consequence of such attacks on their character is to destroy the confidence of people in courts and seriously impair judicial administration. In Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh v. V. Laxminarayana (AIR 1968 Andh Pra 370) it was held that a notice under Section 80, C.P.C. imputing improper motives to judicial officers issued by an Advocate on behalf of his client is clear contempt. In a recent pronouncement, the Supreme Court held in Baradakanta v. Registrar, Orissa High Court (AIR 1974 SC 710) that contemptuous imputations made with reference to the administrative functions of the High Court amount to contempt. Allegations of mala fides, bias, improper motive and prejudice against High Court Judges made in grounds of appeal preferred to Governor amount to gross contempt. Likewise, scandalous allegations against High Court Judges in memo of appeal to the Supreme Court are also held gross contempt.

12. These decisions clearly support the view we have taken that the attack made by the respondent against the learned Subordinate Judge in the notice in question is gross contempt and the respondent is punishable for the same.

13. However, reliance is placed on Section 13 of the Contempt of Courts Act where it is said that no court shall impose a sentence for a contempt of court unless it is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that it substantially interferes or tends substantially to interfere with the due course of justice. It is argued that since there is no interference with due course of justice by issuing the notice, the contempt if any on the part of the respondent in issuing the notice is not punishable. This is an altogether untenable contention. What Section 13 enjoined upon the court is that it should not punish any person for contempt unless it is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that it substantially interferes or tends substantially to interfere with due course of justice. The words "due course of justice" used in this section are worthy of note and they contrast with the words used in Section 2(c) due course of any 'judicial proceeding' or 'administration of justice'. The words 'due course of justice' used in Section 13 are of wide import and are not limited to any particular judicial proceeding. If the act complained of substantially interferes or tends to interfere with the broad stream of administration of justice, that is punishable under Section 13. If an act undermines the prestige of courts or scandalises Judicial Officers in the discharge of their judicial functions, it is certainly substantially interfering with due course of justice. To limit the application of those words to interference with a judicial proceeding is to remove a substantial portion of the law of contempt as postulated by the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. This is the view taken by a Division Bench of this Court consisting of one of us (Sambasiva Rao, J.) in C.C. 47/72 dated 18-8-1973 (Andh. Pra.). So, Section 13 does not come to the rescue of the respondent.

14. The result of the above discussion is that the respondent has committed gross contempt of court of the worst type. He has imputed mala fides and lack of good faith to the judicial officer who has disposed of his cases. He has even alleged that the judicial officer has acted maliciously against him. At the same time, he has not even pretended to give any reason for the malicious attitude on the part of the judicial officer either in the notice or in the counter-affidavit. He has not shown any repentence for this reprehensible act he has done. On the other hand, he has tried to take up all sorts of impossible stands to defend his action. In these circumstances we think that only a sentence of imprisonment would meet the requirements of the case. Having given our careful thought, we are of the opinion that one month's sentence of imprisonment would be the proper punishment for the respondent for the contempt he has committed. We accordingly allow this contempt case and sentence the respondent to undergo imprisonment for one month.

Order accordingly.

Advocates List

For the Petitioner P. V. Nagaseshaiah for the Advocate General. For the Respondent I. Seshagirirao, Advocate.

For Petitioner
  • Shekhar Naphade
  • Mahesh Agrawal
  • Tarun Dua
For Respondent
  • S. Vani
  • B. Sunita Rao
  • Sushil Kumar Pathak

Bench List



Eq Citation

(1965) 2 ALT 170

(1976) CRILJ 746