Decided on January 29,1960

STATE Respondents

Referred Judgements :-


Cited Judgements :-



Misra, J. - (1.)This proceeding in contempt against Sri Basu-deva Prasad, an advocate of this Court, relates to a statement alleged to have been made by him and published to the Searchlight, a Patna daily, in its issue of March 24, 1959. Sri Basudeva Prasad gave this statement as the Secretary, Indian Council of Public Affairs. The statement purports to be one Supporting the views of the Law Commission in general with regard to the manner and recruitment of Judges to the High Court bench and executive influence on such appointments. Sri Basudeva Prasad in his statement has stood by the Law Commission, and criticised the Homo Minister, Sri Govind Ballabh Pant, and the Law Minister, Sri A. K. Sen, in so far as they made certain statements in the Parliament adverse to the statement made on the manner of appointment of Judges to the High Court bench which found favour with the Law Commission but which, according to the two ministers, was an unfounded charge against the Government. This court did not take notice of that part of the statement which was in the nature of support given by the maker of the statement, Sri Basudeva Prasad, to the view point of the law commission. There occurred, however, at the end of the statement the following passage which was considered objectionable by the court and accordingly notice was issued asking him to show cause why he should not be committed for contempt of Court in respect) to that statement. The passage runs as follows:
"Suffice it to say that some lawyers who did not make any mark in their profession nor had any visible practice have found their way to the bench. The Government themselves realised that the judiciary was deteriorating and that is one of the reasons why the Law Commission was set up."
Sri Basudeva Prasad appeared and filed a show cause petition in which he stated that the notice issued was wrong in the sense that he had not made a public statement in the Searchlight but he issued the statement to an All--India News Agency for publication, as it appeared from the very publication in question, and in fact it was published also in the newspapers of the States other than Bihar. He has gone into some detail in the show cause petition explaining why he felt called upon to make the statement in question criticising the two ministers of the Union Cabinet and also stated that he had committed no contempt and never intended in any way to mean any disrespect to Or to bring into disrepute courts and Judges, much less Patna High Court Judges. He maintained, however, that he could not discover anything in his statement which would amount to showing any disrespect for, towards or bringing into contempt the Patna High Court and if he had been able to discover any such thing, he would have felt it his duty to express his regret and offer unconditional apology. He admitted, however, that he had issued the statement in question as a public man and he felt it his duty to do so to vindicate the view point and the recommendations of the Law Commission,
(2.)One of the points raised in favour of the attitude of the contamner, Sri Basudeva Prasad, is a point of law which is that where no High Court is specifically mentioned whether the Patna High Court could have jurisdiction to Issue notice of contempt when it was not specifically stated that this was the High Court to which the impugned statement with regard to the members of the bench would be applicable. In my opinion, it is difficult to accede to this contention. The statement with regard to some lawyers without any visible pratice finding their way to the bench does not exclude the Patna High Court. It may be that Sri Basudeva Prasad meant it to be applicable to all the High Courts or to some High Courts excluding the Patna High Court. If, however, this general statement is to be applicable to all the High Courts, it reflects upon the dignity of the members of the bench of all the High Courts, Patna High Court being one of the number. The Searchlight is a newspaper of wide circulation in the State of Bihar and such a statement intended to be released for the members of the public in general, having been published by it, is bound to engender a feeling in the mind of the Bihar public that members of the Patna High Court bench, or at least some of them, managed to find their way to the bench by some means other than merit and practice at the bar. It is, therefore, devoid of substance to say that the dignity of the Court has not been affected by the remark in question. It may be that the other High Courts also have been put in the same category, but so long as the Patna High Court is not excluded, it is not correct to say that this Court would have no jurisdiction to initiate a proceeding in contempt against the maker of the derogatory statement. If authority were needed for the proposition, reference may be made to the case, In the matter of an Advocate of Allahabad, AIR 1935 All 1. In that case also a member of the Allahabad High Court Bar had made the statement in general terms to the following effect : "In this connection it is amusing to note that when a comparatively undeserving lawyer is raised to the Bench, which is a fairly frequent occurrence in our judicial history, it is generally claimed, etc." There also no reference was made to the Allahabad High Court bench in particular but the person proceeded against being a member of the Allahabad High Court Bar the reference to "a comparatively undeserving lawyer is raised to the bench' was taken to be derogatory to the dignity of the Allahabad High Court Bench and the statement was found to shake the confidence of the public who lived in the United Provinces in the capacity and competence of the High Court to administer proper justice to the litigants. Apart from that position, however, the principle to be kept in mind on such cases is to decide on a reasonable view of the surrounding circumstances whether the dignity of the Court issuing notice has been sought to be compromised by the offending matter. There is no doubt in this case that the statement in question, coming as it does from a Patna Lawyer, is bound to lead the public of Bihar to think that the statement is applicable to the Patna High Court and has reference to the manner of recruitment of members of the High Court Bench. Sri Basudeva Prasad, an advocate of this Court, cannot be expected to have access to matters in the other High Courts and therefore, in normal circumstances his experience would seem to be confined to the Patna High Court with which he is connected for some time, and the argument must be over-ruled that the statement is general and the Patna High Court is not comprehended in the reference to the manner of appointment of judges to the High Court bench.
(3.)The next argument advanced by Sri Basudeva Prasad, who has argued his own case, is to the effect that the occasion for making the statement was a public occasion and as such he was justified in making the above statement in support of the recommendations of the Law Commission and against the two Union ministers, who without justification animadverted upon the view point of the Law Commission which was appointed by the Government itself to examine all matters relating to the judiciary in India, It appears, however, that this argument is also without substance. This court while issuing notice rigorously excluded from the purview of the proceeding the major part of the statement in which Sri Basudeva Prasad appeared to lend support to the law commission, which he had every right to do in his own way as a member of the public or as the Secretary of an organization, such as the Indian Council of Public Affairs. It cannot, however, be lost sight of that while doing so he was not content with fully supporting the law Commission but thought it proper to trespass into the region of his own experience, The passage which is the subject matter of the proceeding has nothing to do with the Law Commission's views. Sri Basudeva Prasad has resorted to his own view in the matter and has made the statement in question. If he had been careful in the choice of the words used by him which would give the passage the character of a dispassionate statement of the situation, however wrong he might be and however all-founded his views might have been, this statement would not possibly have been taken notice of by this Court. This Court can never be too sensitive where a scientific analysis of any matter of public interest as taken up by any member of the public, even if it has got an indirect reference to the Judiciary including the High Court and having a bearing on any matter of practice and procedure of the Court. A line, however, has to be drawn between well balanced discussion and sneering remark casting reflection upon the High Court bench, or for the matter of that on the judiciary. The former can by no means have a tendency to lead to loss of confidence in the minds of the people regarding the administration of justice. The views advanced, if wrong, may be suitably countered or shown to be wrong; and if well founded, might be accepted. If the same views are expressed clothing them in language in a sneering pattern or containing innuendoes on the Judges, it is bound to affect the dignity of the Court and bring it into disrepute. The position would be still worse, and the situation might be irreparable, where the views expressed concerning the manner of appointment of Judges are ill-founded, proceeding from personal bias or unripe judgment in the light of suppositions. St cannot be denied that Sri Basudeva Prasad was extremely ill-advised to choose the words "some lawyers who did not make any mark in their profession nor had any visible practice have found their way to the bench". The suggestion is palpable that some members of the bench had managed to secure appointment not by dint of their merit but by using some kind of influence--a view which might be difficult to controvert and is bound to work mischief in the public mind. I am satisfied, therefore, that the passage in question has the effect of bringing into disrepute the Patna High Court and lowering its dignity. Mr. Basudeva Prasad must accordingly be found guilty of having committed contempt of Court.

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