SUBHASH CHAND Vs. S M AGGARWAL
HIGH COURT OF DELHI
Referred Judgements :-
S. N. NAGARAJA RAO V. CHIKKACHENNUPPA AND OTHERS
STATE OF MAHARASHTRA VS. SINDHI ALIAS RAMAN
[REFERRED RE. P. C. SEN,APPELLANT (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 119 OF 1966) REPORTED IN AIR 1970 S.C 1821 AT ]
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MALIK SHARIEF-UD-DIN -
(1.)Subhash Chand, petitioner, along with his brother Lakshman and mother Shakuntala were found guilty of having killed Sudha, wife of accused Lakshman by burning her. Shri S. M. Aggarwal, Additional Sessions Judge tried the case and on 27th of May 1983 sentenced all the three accused to death. After handing down the death sentence, he submitted the record to this Court for confirmation of the death sentences. While the said murder reference No. 1 of 1983 was subjudice and immediately after the pronouncement of death sentence, respondent No. 1 is alleged to have given press interviews and an interview to Doordarshan where he is stated to have discussed the merits of this case. This he is stated to have done despite his awareness that the case was still subjudice and the sentences passed by him were not executable unless the same is confirmed by this Court. It is alleged that respondent No. 1 who had tried the case had no business to go to press and Doordarshan and extensively discuss the merit of the case and to make remarks about the petitioner and his co-accused having pre-planned the murder of Sudha for a motive. It is said that the respondent No. 1 even went to the extent of providing his photograph for publication audit is also alleged that he received a procession of about 200 women in his chamber where sweets were distributed and he allowed himself to be garlanded and photographed. It is said that all this was done by respondent No. 1 in a case which was subjudice and: with a view to create an atmosphere of prejudice against the accused. It is further said that after giving out his views in the judgment respondent No. 1 in utter disregard of his office and judicial proprieties went out of his way to build up public opinion in favour of his judgment with a view to interfere in the course of justice.
(2.)In his reply respondent No. 1 has not denied the allegations. Briefly stating his stand is that after pronouncement of the judgment it became a public property and all that was published in the press were the excerpts from his judgment. He, however, does not deny the fact of having given press interviews and an interview to Doordarshan in respect of the facts of the case. In respect of the facts that he allowed himself to be garlanded, photographed and received a deputation of women in his chamber, he says that he was mobbed after court hours despite his requests to the processionists that it was not proper. He, Lowever, denied the fact that he allowed himself to be garlanded or that sweets were distributed. Apart from this, respondent No. 1 has asserted that since he was governed by Indian Administrative Service . Conduct Rules, he was within his rights to go to the press and to the television to propagate his views which were literally and honorary in character; that as a citizen of this great country and on being approached by the free media it was his duty to participate in a healthy discussion on a topic in the larger interests of the society and that by giving interviews he had only exercised his right to freedom of speech; that simply by being saddled with the duties of a judge he does not cease to be a free citizen. In short he has tried to justify everything he did. In pursuance of the direction by the Court, respondent No. 2 has produced script of the talk given by respondent No. 1. A rejoinder to what Shri. Aggarwal has said in his reply has also been filed by the petitioner and a further affidavit has been filed by respondent No. 1 in which he has said that the interview given to magazines "Sarita", "Dinman" and "Nav Bharat Times" were given by him. But these do not represent the true version of his talk but the journalist has couched these interviews in his own language to give it a journalistic flavour in order to make the publication more interesting and catchy for the readers. A number of petitions were also filed on behalf of individuals and social organizations for intervention in the proceedings on the ground that the petition raises an important point of grant public interest.
(3.)It would thus appear that these proceedings are an outcome of a very unfortunate event in which one of our own Additional Sessions Judges, respondent No. 1, has involved himself. It is difficult for us to believe that he is so innocent and ignorant as not to know the consequences of the conduct in which he has indulged. His conduct has definitely created a unique situation and we believe this is a unique case of its kind. In fact it is because of the importance of the question raised by the facts of this case that we decided to embark upon an exercise of finding out as to how a judge should conduct himself if he has to enjoy the confidence of general public, so fundamental and important for the administration of justice. The areas covered by the Contempt of Courts Act and the judicial proprieties are so overlapping that it is very difficult to draw a line and to distinguish between the two. The old dictum that justice should not only be done but it must appear to have been done despite its age has flourished and has not decayed. What exactly has happened is that immediately after sentencing the petitioner, his brother and his mother to death in a murder case, respondent no. 1 made himself available to press and Doordarshan and extensively commented on the merits of the case. This he did despite the fact that he had made a reference to the High Court for confirmation of the death sentence and he surely was aware that the matter was ex-facio subjudice. Despite his awareness that confirmation proceedings were a continuation of the trial he has made a sustained effort to publicise the accused as criminals of the .worst kind who had pre-planned the murder of Sudha, wife of Lakshman accused, after they failed to persuade her to bring further dowry from her parents. Thus, in this way soon after handing down his judgment he gives interviews to media and goes to Doordarshan to build up what may be called a public opinion in support of his judgment immediately after sending the accused to death cell. What is most significant in these interviews is the fact that he highlights it as a case of dowry burning which, indeed in a hotly debated topic of public impotance and unfortunately press media also choose to publish it under scare headlines. A reading of these interviews would show that these are not literary based on the long experience of a Judge and do not pertain to a topic. These are palpably the interviews in the form of his comments in respect of a case which on the date was subjudice. Since respondent No. I has admitted the truth of the allegations, it u not necessary for us to make a reference to the entire published mate- rial as in substance almost all interviews are similar.
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