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J’khand HC Quashes Contempt Notice Against Cong Leader Manish Tiwary, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav Over Statements Made To Media After Fodder Scam Verdict [Read Order]

The Jharkhand High Court has quashed the contempt of court notice issued against Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwary, RJD leader and ex-deputy CM of Bihar Tejashwi Yadav and RJD’s Raghuwans Prasad Singh and Shivanand Tiwari by a special CBI court in Ranchi which was hearing the fodder scam case.

Justice Aparesh Kumar Singh quashed the contempt notice issued by Special CBI Judge Shiv Pal Singh who had on December 23, 2017 convicted Lalu Yadav in the Rs 84-lakh Deoghar treasury scam case.

The Special CBI judge issued the notice on January 3 saying, “… after the said judgment (in Deogarh treasury case) was delivered in Print Media and Electronic Media intentionally by contemptuous and scandalous words used by Tejeshvi Yadav, Ex. Deputy C.M., Bihar, Patna Manish Tiwary, Spokesman Congress-I, 3. Raghuwans Prasad Singh, Active member of R.J.D. and Shivanand Tiwary, Active Member of R.J.D. tended to lower down authority of this court, Presiding Officer and Judicial Systems, thereby caused criminal contempt as defined Under Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971”.

While hearing their petition against this notice of contempt, Manish Tiwary had contended before the high court that no remark had been made which is scandalous in nature. It was also argued that power to punish for contempt has not been conferred upon the subordinate judiciary and the order in challenge has been passed mechanically without holding any preliminary inquiry as prescribed under Rule 401 of Contempt of Courts (Jharkhand High Court) Rules, 2001.

The ASGI also submitted before the high court that there are no explicit materials or findings recorded by the CBI court which persuaded it to hold that these petitioners have caused criminal contempt of court and the newspaper reports furnished by the court along with the report do not find any reference in the order by which notice of contempt has been issued.

The high court while hearing their pleas, noted that “the power of contempt is said to be the inherent attribute of the superior court of law. This power has not been given to the subordinate judiciary, but in an appropriate case, the subordinate judiciary can make a reference to the High Court under section 15(2) of the Act”.

“Learned Judge before making a reference was required to hold preliminary inquiry by issuing a show-cause notice accompanied with the copies of relevant documents, if any, to the contemnor and upon cause shown, if any, and after hearing them, should have written a concise reasoned order of reference indicating why contempt appears to have been committed. There is no mention of any particular newspaper report or reports through electronic media on the basis of which, learned court proceeded to hold at the first instance itself that the petitioners have caused criminal contempt of court,” it said.

The court called for a report from the lower court on this issue in the discharge of its jurisdiction as loco parentis over the subordinate judiciary.

The report referred to media reports in four dailies dated January 4 which the high court found had statements of petitioners indicating their ire at a political party and a political person and their intention to go in appeal against the judgment of conviction.

It then went on to add, “Newspaper reports are at best hearsay evidence, as has been held by the Apex Court in the case of Laxmi Raj Shetty vs State of Tamil Nadu. The newspaper is not one of the documents referred to in section 78(2) of the Evidence Act, 1872 by which, allegation of act can be proved. The presumption of genuineness attached under section 81 of the Evidence Act to a newspaper report, cannot be treated as a proof of the facts reported therein.

“Apparently, these reports at best could not be drawn in such category as would amount to criminal contempt. In any case, the impugned order completely fails to make reference to any such report, nor the impugned notice issued thereunder encloses any such material document or newspaper reports based upon which, petitioners were called upon to show-cause. Need for circumspection and restraint has been repeatedly cautioned by the Apex Court in the exercise of power to punish for contempt. It is not intended to be invoked or exercised routinely or mechanically,” it observed.

Read the Order Here

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