The Supreme Court in a recent judgment dropped contempt charges against VHP leader Giriraj Kishore who died after judgment on the issue was reserved, for allegedly making defamatory statement in 1994 on Ayodhya controversy. In the significant case Rajeev Dhawan v. Gulshan Kumar Mahajan & Ors, the Court also dropped contempt proceedings against editor and reporter of a daily Khabardar India for publishing the derogatory statement of the VHP leader. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha delivered the judgment.
The petitioner had alleged that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which was banned at that time, held Dharam Sansad in the first week of April, 1994 and after the Dharam Sansad was over, its President, Vishnu Hari Dalmia and Joint General Secretary, Giriraj Kishore had made certain derogatory statements in a news conference. The statements to the media made by Vishnu Hari Dalmia and Giriraj Kishore were published in Indian Express in its edition of 10.04.1994. Dr. Rajeev Dhawan, Senior Advocate filed Contempt Petition (Crl.) before the Apex Court against Vishnu Hari Dalmia and Giriraj Kishore, President and Joint General Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Indian Express by invoking the jurisdiction of the Court under Article 129 of the Constitution of India.
Giriraj, who was brought to the court on March 26 to appear in the proceedings, died on July 13.
A bench of CJI R. M. Lodha, justices A R Dave, S J Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and S K Singh noted that the VHP leader, when he appeared before it, was not able to respond due to severe physical and mental illness.
Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice R M Lodha said, "We appreciate the gravity of the subject matter highlighted by Rajeev Dhawan. We are also not oblivious of the fact that the Court was not satisfied prima facie with the initial response filed by Giriraj Kishore and ordered on May 06, 1994 to initiate the contempt proceedings.”
"But, the fact of the matter is that despite the order passed on 06.05.1994, the notice accompanied by charges on him has not been served so far. In this view of the matter, at this distance of time, when the subject matter remained dormant for almost two decades and now the contemnor is 96 years and he is not able to respond to the charges due to old age and illness, we do not think that this is a fit case where we should deal with the matter further," the bench said.
Since contempt proceedings are not being pursued further to find out criminality against the author who made the offending statements, the Bench was of the view that contempt matter does not deserve to be pursued against owner, publisher, editor of Khabardar India and its reporter Pradeep Thakur.