The Delhi High Court recently directed initiation of contempt proceedings against a senior police officer for filing misleading and incorrect information in a status report submitted to the court.
The direction was issued by Justice Mukta Gupta, who ordered the matter to be listed before a Division Bench of the court on October 9, subject to the orders of the Chief Justice.
The court was hearing a petition filed by one Mala, who had sought directions to the State to remove derogatory remarks against her and her community as posted on Facebook.
On notice being issued, a status report was filed on August 27, by Inspector Manoj Kumar Sharma, Station House Officer PS Mayur Vihar. As per the report, the request for removal of the post was made on August 16. It said that the post was then examined and a letter was sent to Facebook through Cyber Cell, East District, Delhi to remove the content.
In view of this status report, the court directed the State to file a status report specifying whether the content had been successfully removed. The second affidavit, filed on September 14 under the signature of the same police officer, assured the court that the content had been removed from Facebook.
However, the counsel for the petitioner pointed out that the police officer’s statement was incorrect as the post resurfaces if certain words were typed. The court then directed the in-charge of the Cyber Cell to appear before it.
The in-charge told the court that the first communication for removal of the post was received by him only on September 12, that too with the wrong URL number. The correct URL, he said, was received by him only on September 14. He further submitted that it would take at least ten days for them to be able to finish the procedure.
Pointing out the discrepancy, the police officer was asked to explain his stand, to which he claimed that the earlier affidavit contained an “inadvertent and bonafide language error” and also apologised for the same. He submitted that the request for blocking the objectionable content was forwarded to the Cyber Cell on August 25, when he intimated the Cell that the petitioner’s request would be sent to it.
However, during the hearing, the court was informed by the Cyber Cell that even though the police officer ’s letter was taken to it on August 25, the request was not accepted as the request did not contain a URL. Thereafter, a fresh request was sent to it only on September 10.
The court therefore noted that the police officer had concealed information from it and had also submitted incorrect facts, observing, “It is thus apparent that not only the two status reports filed by Inspector Manoj Kumar Sharma concealed material facts but even in the affidavit filed pursuant to the directions dated 18th September, 2018 he stated incorrect facts and concealed material information.”
Directing initiation of contempt proceedings, it then ordered, “Filing of false affidavit before the Court amounts to criminal contempt as held in the decisions reported as (1990) 2 SCC 149 Hiralal Chawla Vs. State of U.P., (1995) 3 SCC 757 Dhananjay Sharma Vs. State of Haryana & Ors., (2000) 2 SCC 367 Murray & Co. Vs. Ashok Kumar Newatia and (2007) 15 SCC 515 U.P. Resident Employees Coop. Housing Building Society Vs. NOIDA. Therefore, list before the Division Bench subject to order of Hon’ble the Chief Justice for initiating appropriate action for criminal contempt against Inspector Manoj Kumar Sharma on 9th October, 2018.”