Supreme Court, yesterday confirmed the conviction of a Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader, M V Jayarajan, who was also a member of Kerala Legislative Assembly for committing contempt of court, but reduced the maximum sentence of six months to 4 weeks imprisonment.
The contempt proceedings were initiated suo moto by the Kerala High Court on the basis of the speech delivered by the political leader severely criticising the High Court judgment which banned the holding of meetings on public roads and road margins in the State. The speech was delivered on 26.6.2010 in a public meeting at Kannur, Kerala, to protest against the hike in petroleum prices. During the speech, Mr. M.V.Jayarajan made reference to the Judgement which banned the holding of meeting on public roads and road margins, and spoke as follows;
“When the Court verdicts go against the country and the people, those verdicts have only the value of grass. From now on, what worth do the judges who pronounced the verdict have? Today disregarding the verdict of those Judges and flouting their judgments, people throughout the length and breadth of Kerala are organizing public meetings and rallies. Why should those Judges sit in glass houses and pass verdicts any more? If they have any self respect they should resign and step down from their office. The judiciary can attain greatness only when judgments acceptable to the country and obeyed by the people are passed. Today even the judiciary is ashamed. If the Executive exceeds its limits the judiciary is there to save. Judges are to interpret the laws and interpret the intention of the Legislature which had made the laws and pass orders accordingly. Unfortunately, what some idiots (fools) occupying our seat of justice say is nothing else. Actually speaking they themselves make laws and they 2themselves issue orders. This is not conducive to a democratic country. This is what they should correct. Today is the day on which the verdict of two senior Judges of Kerala High Court has been given only the value of grass.”
The speech was widely reported by the print and electronic media, and on this basis contempt petitions were filed by various parties. The High Court initiated took suo moto contempt proceedings as there was no sanction by the Advocate General. Mr. M V Jayarajan defended his speech before the High Court, in his response, he said;
“ It is true that I have made a speech referring to Annexure V judgment passed by this Honourable Court, prohibiting holding of meetings on public roads and road margins. It was not a prepared speech, but one delivered extempore. The allegations that by making the said speech, I have committed contempt of this Honourable Court, by using, during the course of the speech, certain words for which distorted meanings have been given in the petition, is absolutely incorrect and without any basis……. “
Dissatisfied by the explanation, the High Court convicted Mr.Jayarajan awarding him the maximum sentence of six months under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. Though the Supreme Court confirmed the conviction, the Court did not approve of some of the expressions used in the Judgement while convicting the contemnor. The displeasure of Supreme Court is expressed as follows:
“6 Learned Senior Counsel for the Appellant has drawn our attention to certain expressions used in the impugned Judgment, which we unhesitatingly and unequivocally find to be inappropriate when used by the Judge in an Order or judgment. Since we have expressed our opinion we shall adjure from even mentioning the explanation offered on behalf of the Bench as elucidation in the backdrop of the syntax. The sentence passed comprehensively does all the speaking”
The Court further held;
”We are also unable to accept the meaning sought to be given to the word ‘sumbhan’/ ‘sumbhanmar’ since our inquiries reveal that they are pejorative or insulting epithets/abuses akin to calling a person a fool or idiot. The Appellant indubitably has exercised his freedom of speech insofar as he has dissected the Judgment and argued that it was contrary to law. He may also be excused in saying that Judges live in glass houses, and that the judgment’s worth is less than grass, since this is his perception. But it is not open to the Appellant or any person to employ abusive and pejorative language to the authors of a judgment and call upon them to resign and step down from their office if they have any self respect….”
Mr. Jayarajan was never ready to tender apology as usually done in contempt cases. In this regard, the observation of the court is as follows :
“8 Learned Senior Counsel appearing for the Respondent State has in his brief submission highlighted the fact that at no stage has the Appellant tendered an apology. We have given an opportunity to learned Senior Counsel for the Appellant to elucidate this position but he has categorically stated that he has instructions that the Appellant does not intend to apologise for any of his statements”
While confirming the conviction, the court held ;
” Judges expect, nay invite, an informed and genuine discussion or criticism of judgments, but to incite a relatively illiterate audience against the Judiciary, is not to be ignored. It was, not the Petitioner’s province, as exercising his freedom of speech, to advise that “if those judges have any self respect, they should resign and quit their offices”.
Read the judgment